Babylon: The Bookends of History, Part 2
Revelation 17-18 Lesson 53
Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, which is easy to find. Amen! Revelation chapter 17 and really verse 5. The title of our message this morning is Babylon: The Bookends of History, Part 2. And as you’re turning there I want to thank Gabe Morris for filling in last week and Jim McGowan for filling in on Sunday School and I’m planning on being here every single Sunday till the end of the year and then some after that. [clapping] But it’s always encouraging when you have such capable people to fall back on as Bible teachers. So thank you Gabe and Jim. Let’s give them a round of applause too. [clapping]
We are entering a section of the Book of Revelation that I believe is one of the least understood passages in the Book of Revelation. It could be very well one of the most misunderstood, most misinterpreted chapters you find anywhere in the Bible. And so consequently before I just jumped right in and started to trying these chapters verse by verse, which we will do, most likely beginning next Sunday morning, I wanted to sort of stop and pause for a minute and give you some background on the subject of Babylon because unless you understand what prior Scripture says about Babylon, unless you have the chorus of the Old Testament singing in your ears as you read these chapters you won’t be able to make heads or tails of these chapters.
So this background on the subject of Babylon really has seven parts to it and we had made it all the way to Roman numeral five last time. But the whole subject of Babylon you’ll recall begins there with Roman numeral 1, The Tower of Babel, (the tower or BAbel as some would call it), which was man’s first attempt at world government. It was being built, there are two things to really understand about this, and this session that I’m going to do this morning with you is largely build on what I did in the prior sermon on this. So if you didn’t get a chance to hear that I would encourage you to go back into our archives on the Sugar Land Bible Church website and listen to that. And I think if you take these two sessions and put them together you’re going to hear something coming from this church that you may have never heard before because these chapters are so misconstrued by so many people.
The basic thesis that I’m operating from is the following: Babylon means Babylon, isn’t that heavy? It doesn’t mean Jerusalem, it doesn’t mean Rome, it doesn’t mean a one-world religious system although that’s part of it. It means Babylon! And the journey really starts at the Tower of Babel where the man’s first attempt at world government took place. And in the Genesis story it’s very clear that that attempt at world government was taking place in a land called Shinar, which we can identify today as between the Euphrates and the Tigris, modern day Iraq. That’s where rebellion first started and God, through the confounding of the language at the time stopped that project dead in its tracks.
And when God stopped that project dead in its tracks it had a reverberating consequence to the entire world. The sin that was taking place at Babel, something that we called last time the Mother-Child Cult, a religious system which exported into the whole world. Every nation that has ever existed in some way or some sense can trace its origins back to this Mother-Child system. And because there were not nations at the Tower of Babel the disruption of the language created the different nations and ethnicities and all of them took this religious system into their common groups wherever they went. And we went through that.
And so the Tower of Babel, two things to understand about it, number one, it was a building project taking place in a specific geographical area, the land of Shinar. And number two, it truly was the mother of all harlotry. Mother is source, your source; from that location this harlotry spread every-where. There’s only one entity on the planet that could qualify to be the mother of all harlotry and that’s the Tower of Babel, for reasons I’ve explained. Only the Tower of Babel had a universal reverberating impact globally because of the confounding of the language into languages. Everyone else is but a daughter harlot, an absorber, but not the mother or the progenitor.
The second stop on this bus ride, and these two sessions are sort of the kinds of one that you need to really put your thinking caps on because we’re going into an awful lot of detail that you don’t typically get in a local church. But the second stop on this bus ride are the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah 13 and 14 and Jeremiah 50 and 51. And you might recall that we looked that we looked at those a couple of Sunday’s ago. Those chapters deal with the destruction of Babylon. And we made the point that the way these chapters describe Babylon’s fall in no way, shape or form mirrors the past events of history. Babylon never fell cataclysmically, she never fell suddenly, she never fell to the point where she would be desolate forever. That simply has never happened.
And most commentators, when they get to these chapters they just say well, you’ve got to make them allegorical or symbolic. The problem is God’s Word means what it says and says what it means… Amen! God cannot lie! And so in order for these chapters to be fulfilled and Babylon to be destroyed exactly the way God said they would be Babylon has to be brought back to life so she can be destroyed in the specific manner spoken of in these prophecies. That’s why as we move through Revelation 17 and 18 there are countless references to those two chapters. It’s almost as if John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is saying here it is, here’s the place in history where Isaiah and Jeremiah’s long awaited prophecies will be fulfilled.
The third stop on this tour through the Bible is the prophet Zechariah, chapter 5 and verses 5-11 and we read those verses if you recall, it’s the story of a woman, she’s put in a basket, a lead covering is placed over the basket. And at a specific point in time she’s going to be let out of that basket and she’s going to build a system of commerce and religion in a specific part of the world and that specific part of the world, Zechariah 5:11, is guess where. Shinar. [Zechariah 5:11, “Then the angel who was speaking with me went out and said to me, “Lift up now your eyes and see what this is going forth.”]
Shinar is exactly where the nation of Israel went into captivity. More important than that it’s the exact part of the world, modern day Iraq, where the Tower of Babel, man’s first attempt at world government against the purpose of God, that first attempt took place. So where everything began according to these prophecies you’re starting to see (hopefully) is the same place where everything will end.
We made the point that the woman in that basket is the same woman that you read about in Revelation 17. We went through those parallels. And so this woman that you read about in Revelation 17, this harlot, this woman that rides the beast, that woman exists largely because she was sprung out of the basket at the right time to try to complete what God disrupted in Genesis 11, to try to build a (what we would call) a new world order, a one-world system of economics, politics, and religion, a very system that you’re seeing coming together right now in our world. And yet it’s located in a specific place of the earth; the headquarters of it are a specific place of the earth, Shinar, or what today we would call modern day Iraq.
Arthur Pink, you might recall, makes this point, the prophecy or a vision of Zechariah 5 contains that germ which is afterwards expanded AND developed in such detail in Revelation 17 an 18. That’s clue number three.
Now you move into clue number four and it’s interesting how these clues are developing, and we haven’t even gotten to our principle passage yet, Revelation 17 and 18. These are just things that the Holy Spirit expects the reader to have in mind when they read these chapters. Clue number four is this reference to the Kings of the East. Somehow, some way a vast army, Revelation 9:14 and Revelation 16:12, sixth trumpet, sixth bowl, judgment both speak of it and an army is being summoned from the east. [Revelation 9:14, “one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”’ Revelation 16:12, “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.”]
And in the Bible when you do a word study on “east” east always means Babylon. It’s always referring to that area between the Euphrates and the Tigris, really that part of the world where human history started. And I think these armies are being summoned from that part of the world because that’s yet another clue, that’s clue number 4, but that area of the world is destined to be the headquarters of the antichrist yet future.
So the clues have been building and finally we got to Roman numeral V, the end time harlot where we learn that there is going to be a system and a city built in that part of the world, and that city’s name is what? It’s Babylon! Revelation 18:10, among many verses that we could quote, says, “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’” Now at this point people have a choice as to what to do with that name “Babylon.” The vast majority of commentators out there simply wave a magic wand and change the meaning of the word—Babylon means whatever you want it to be.
I even had one fellow send his book and the point of the book is Babylon in Revelation 17 and 18 is New York City, and the harlot is the Statue of Liberty. And the guy kind of wrote me a letter that he enclosed with the book boasting on the fact that he has like a thousand footnotes to back up his view. And I thought to myself, well you’d better have a thousand footnotes because you’re on the wrong continent, first of all. New York City, whatever you think about it, at best would be a daughter harlot, but NOT the mother of all harlotry. You see that. And when we go through the Book of Revelation, and I’ve tried to make a point of this as we’ve gone through the book, every time you see an area of geography it always refers to a literal place. So why would Babylon be any different? And I believe the slide that I closed with last time was this one here, as you go through these chapters you start to see these references over and over again. And the only logical place they fit is in what the Bible describes concerning literal Babylon.
Now here is what is being done in the minds of most commentators today. What they say is this: yeah, that’s all true Andy, but when you look at verse five you’ll see the word “mystery.” In fact, notice, if you will, Revelation 17:5, it says, “On her forehead a name was written, ‘Mystery: Babylon the Great’ the mother of harlots, and of the abominations of the earth.” And in their minds they think “mystery” means mystical. Mystery means symbolic and so the very, very best interpreters that you have out there, even someone that I think as highly of John Walvoord believe that he doesn’t have to follow the literal intent of the word Babylon because of the word mystery.
He writes in his Revelation commentary, a very good commentary which I recommend to you, although I don’t agree with what he’s saying here. “The city here according to verse 5 is a mystery, not a literal city.” Here is another commentator, S. S. Bruce, he writes the following concerning Revelation 17:5. “The title written on her forehead, ‘Mystery,’ Mystery indicates that the name she bears is not to be understood literally but allegorically.” Watch this! “Babylon the Great is read but Rome is meant.”
Let me say that again. “Babylon the Great is read but Rome is meant!” It doesn’t say Babylon here, it really says Rome and I’m just going to wave a magic wand over that word and turn the word Babylon into Rome, not Babylon in the east but Rome in the west and I can do that because of the use of this word “mystery” which means mystical.” So if you believe it’s mystical Babylon or mystery Babylon then you can make it Rome, you could make it New York City, you could make it Las Vegas, you could make it Jerusalem, you can turn it into whatever you want to turn it into allegedly because of this word “mystery.”
Now look very carefully at this slide here. On the upper portion of the slide you have the King James Version and the NIV [New International Version]. Some of you may use the NIV, you might be NIV positive and notice that the word “mystery” in the harlot’s title on her forehead is capitalized. You see that? So if you are using the NIV or the KJV you’re going to think that the title on her forehead is Mystery Babylon, because Mystery is capitalized, making it part of her title.
But look at the bottom of the screen; you see the New American Standard Bible? See the difference, “mystery” is not capitalized, meaning that “mystery” is not part of her title, as the NASB translated or rendered it, they give her title Babylon the Great, and according to that lower translation “mystery” is just something that God is now revealing about Babylon. Now when you look at these two titles by these different translations and every translation, none of them are inerrant because they’re just English translations. I actually use all of them at different junctures, maybe not the NIV so much but I’m a KJV guy, or NASB guy. But you look at this very carefully and you say well no wonder everybody’s confused about this. It says one thing in the KJV and something totally different in the NASB.
So here’s the issue; which one of these is correct? Well here’s the deal, the name Babylon the Great is used five other times in the Book of Revelation. Let me give you those verses if I could; just jot these down because we don’t have time to read them all. Revelation 14:8, Revelation 16:19, Revelation 18:2, Revelation 18:10, and Revelation 18:21.
[Revelation 14:8, “And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “ Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” Revelation 16:19, “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. King.”
Revelation 18:2, “And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “ Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.” Revelation 18:10, “standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’” Revelation 18:21, “Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.”]
Apparently it’s possible to translate it both ways. You either put “mystery” in her title which argues for an allegorical interpretation, “mystic Babylon.” Or “mystery” doesn’t go in her title, arguing for a more literal interpretation. So here’s the issue; which one is right. Well I think NASB translators have it right. Now I know that’s disappointing to people that are KJV only, there’s a lot of people out there that think the King James Version is the version the Apostle Paul used. And I think it’s a very good translation, I like it; it’s not perfect. So why would I think the NASB has it right and the KJV has it wrong? Because every other time that the references to Babylon the Great, five other times her name is given, she is never called, EVER, mystery Babylon. She’s always called Babylon the Great. So if you turn her into mystery Babylon you translate that word in a way that she is never given that title anywhere else.
So the word “mystery” in and of itself” (in my opinion) does not give the interpreter the right to allegorize, to deliteralize the passage. What it’s saying is Babylon’s role in the end times is a mystery. Remember what a mystery is? The Greek dictionary defines a mystery or a mustērion as something now disclosed previously hidden. Paul the Apostle, in Colossians 1:26 uses the word “mystery” in the same way, something hidden but now revealed. [Colossians 1:26, “that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints.”]
In other words, when John penned this word on the harlot’s forehead in the Book of Revelation it was never his intention to get the reader to understand that really it’s mystical Babylon, symbolic Babylon; it’s simply Babylon the Great and she has a role in the end times which has never been revealed thus far.
Now if I haven’t confused you yet let me make another attempt at it. You’ll notice what the mystery is; the mystery or the new truth that’s being disclosed here is not the fact that Babylon is going to have a dominant role in the end time. That’s already been disclosed in prior passages that we’ve studied, Zechariah 5 and the others. What it is revealing is the interaction between the woman and the beast is a mystery. That’s never been disclosed because as you go through Bible prophecy you start to see these two strands of prophetic truth developing. You see the empire of the beast, probably originating in Europe, described in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7.
Then you have other strands of prophetic truth that say now wait a minute, there’s another role that’s going to be played here by Babylon in Iraq. Those two strands of prophetic truth are on the horizon, they are developing as you look through the pages of God’s Word how are these two strands of prophetic truth resolved? That’s the mystery! That’s what’s never been disclosed before because what we learn in this chapter is the antichrist coming from Revived Europe, Daniel 2, Daniel 7, eventually is sending the world power at some point is going to become jealous perhaps, of the city Babylon, which is reigning over the kings of the earth and he will attack it and destroy it. That’s what Revelation 17 is speaking of and that’s the mystery. A woman rides the beast is the mystery. Babylon trying to get the upper hand over the antichrist’s system and yet the antichrist doesn’t like it and he turns on the city. That’s a mystery.
So the term “mystery” was never designed by the Holy Spirit to communicate that Babylon doesn’t mean Babylon. It’s describing a prophetic interaction that you have no resolution to if you didn’t have Revelation 17 and 18 in your Bible. But there’s two images here, a woman rides a beast; the woman is the city of Babylon; the beast is the antichrist! Babylon in some way seems to even get a larger role over the antichrist, making him jealous, causing him to turn on her. And the reason John is going into all this as he’s mentioned there back in chapter 16 with the seventh trumpet, the destruction of Babylon, now he’s giving us a non-parenthetical chronological insertion and he’s saying let me tell you how it’s all going to pan out. That’s the mystery. That’s what’s never before been revealed or disclosed.
Arthur Pink, in his book, The Antichrist, has it 100% correct on this. We believe that the English translators have misled many by printing on their own authority the word “MYSTERY” in large capital letters, thus making it appear that this was part of the woman’s name. This we are assured is a mistake that mystery is connected with the woman herself and not with her name is clear from verse 7, where the angel says unto John, “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and the beast that carries her.” That’s the mystery. If you want to know what the mystery is it’s the interaction between the beast and the city of Babylon. You can see how mystery applies to both entities. It’s never designed to communicate the idea that Babylon is somehow allegorical Babylon, mystery Babylon.
So what am I trying to say? I’m trying to say this: Babylon means Babylon! That’s the point.
And having said all of that, most likely you’ve been sitting in church for a long time and you’ve never heard this before; you’ve heard every other theory out there, and I want to walk through here Roman numeral VI, the inadequate theories that don’t deal adequately with the subject matter at hand. And each theory fails because they will tell you that Babylon doesn’t mean Babylon. They de-literalize the word. Each theory fails because they take a daughter and turn it into a mother. There’s only one mother, that’s the Tower of Babel where this rebellion started where apparently it will end that exported apostasy and abominations into the whole world. Rome never did that. Rome shows up too late on the world team for that to happen. Jerusalem never did that. Las Vegas never did that. San Francisco never did that. Washington D.C. never did that… well, I’ll have to think twice about that one! [Laugher]
It’s describing the mother, not the daughter. All these other theories are talking about a daughter, which looks similar at points but it’s just a daughter. There’s only one mother in this whole thing and that is the Tower of Babel. So let’s look at some of these inadequate theories. Number one, people say oh, this is just a religious system, that’s all it is. Look at verse 18, is verse 18 in your Bible, of chapter 17. Just look at it, open your Bible, us there a verse 18 there? Is anybody’s verse 18 missing? I don’t think so. Verse 18 is the most important verse in that whole chapter because that’s where the angel tells you what the woman is. And most people just ignore verse 18 and yet how can you do that when that’s the interpretation. It’s like trying to get directions somewhere and drive somewhere and not paying attention to the map.
Revelation 17:18 says, “The woman you saw is the great city” the woman with Babylon the Great on her forehead is an actual city. Revelation 18:10 says the exact same thing, “Woe, woe to the great” what? “city, Babylon the Great,” same Greek word, it’s the Greek word polis, you might recognize the word metropolis, polis added to the end of that word metropolis, meaning a city. And most people, when they interpret this, and I don’t know why it is, I don’t know if it’s blinders, I don’t know if it’s something in the subconscious, but they chop off verse 18 and they don’t interact with it.
Again, John Walvoord, I’ll mention him in just a minute, but first E. W. Bullinger, says, “It is indeed surprising how any mistake could have been made in the identification of this woman. For the Holy Spirit first shows us her very name upon her forehead. Then, in verse 18, He tells us as plainly as words can tell anything, that ‘the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.” Chapter 16 verse 19, 17 verse 5 identifies this city with Babylon. God says it is a ‘city.’ He does not say a system or a religion, but a ‘CITY.’”
It is indeed surprising how any mistake could have been made in the identification of this woman. For the Holy Spirit first shows us her very name upon her forehead. Then, in verse 18, He tells us as plainly as words can tell anything, that ‘the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth’, and chap. xvi. 19, as well as xvii. 5, identifies this city with Babylon. God says it is a ‘city.’ He does not say a system or a religion, but a ‘CITY.’”
Now notice this quote from John Walvoord, who again is a mentor, one of the greats, and the reason I quote John Walvoord is not to pick on him but just to show you that the best of the best make this error. He writes, “Babylon, ecclesiastically symbolized by the woman in Revelation 17,” aha, he doesn’t think it’s a city, he thinks it’s just a religious system, “proposes a common worship and a common religion through uniting in a world church.” Not a city, a church. “This is destroyed by the beast in Revelation 17:16 who thus fulfills the will of God (Revelation 17:17).’ And then he starts to move into Revelation 18 and he just chopped off which verse in his refutation? The very last verse in the chapter, which is the most important verse because it tells you who this woman is. Why would he do that? Because he is under what many of us are under and have to struggle with, presuppositions or blinders. He believes in his heart of hearts it’s just a religious system and so verse 18 is sort of an inconvenient truth. And so you just skip right over it.
I can show you countless commentators of very high repute who do this over and over and over again. You say well, Andy, is this a city or is this a system? And the answer is yes. It’s the city of Babylon which is the headquarters of the system. It’s just like the tower of Babel; remember the tower of Babel, it was an actual city on planet earth and yet it was the headquarters of the Mother-Child system. When I use the word Wall Street what do you think of? A financial system. But did you know that Wall Street is an actual street in New York City? It’s a city, an actual place on planet earth which is the headquarters of a financial system. How about Hollywood? What do you think when I say that word? (Maybe you shouldn’t think too much about that.) It’s a system of marketing, it’s system of media and yet Hollywood is an actual place on planet earth. How about Madison Avenue? That’s a system of marketing but Madison Avenue is an actual place on planet earth. How about Vatican City? Everybody thinks of Roman Catholicism but Vatican City also is an actual place on planet earth.
And this is what John is seeing here. Yes, he’s seeing a system but he’s not shy on the fact as to the geographical area where this system will be located. So simply arguing that this is a religious system doesn’t interact at all with the very last verse in the chapter.
The second view that’s out there is people think this is the city of Jerusalem. Why would they think that? Because Jerusalem all the way through the Old Testament when she is wayward against God is called a harlot. Ezekiel 16, Ezekiel 23, Hosea chapter 9, the whole Book of Hosea really, Hosea 9 and verse 1. And so because it says “harlot” on her forehead it’s Jerusalem.
Hank Hanegraaff, in his book The Apocalypse Code, this does not mean misunderstanding something he said on the radio, this is something in his book, and he writes this: What has puzzled me over the years is not the identity of “the great prostitute,” but how so many could mistake her historical identity…In biblical history only one nation is inextricably linked to the moniker “harlot.” And that nation is Israel! Anyone who has read the Bible even once has flashbacks to the graphic images of apostate Israel when they first encounter the great prostitute of Revelation. From the Pentateuch to the Prophets, the image is repeated endlessly. Perhaps the most gut-wrenching portrayal of Israel is the prostitute found in Hosea.” [Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code: Find out What the Bible Really Says About the End Times and Why It Matters (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2007), 118, 19-20.]
This fits with his replacement theology, that God is through with Israel, and after all she is a harlot and God is going to wipe her out or destroy her. In fact, Hanegraaff believes God already destroyed Israel in A. D. 70. He believes this, the Book of Revelation, is a prophecy written in thee 60’s largely fulfilled in the events of A.D. 70. Why does he think that? He thinks “harlot” means Jerusalem; “harlot” means Israel! And yes it does many times mean that in the Old Testament. But what about Isaiah 23:17, where Tyre, modern day Lebanon, a Gentile city, is called a what? A harlot. [Isaiah 23:17, “It will come about at the end of seventy years that the Lord will visit Tyre. Then she will go back to her harlot’s wages and will play the harlot with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth.”]
What about Nahum, chapter 3, verse 4 where Nineveh, the city that Jonah fled from and was commanded to preach to, a Gentile city, is also called a harlot. [Nahum 3:4, “All because of the many harlotries of the harlot, the charming one, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations by her harlotries and families by her sorceries.”] So yes, Jerusalem is called a harlot many times in the Bible but so are Gentile cities. So why would it be a big deal to have Babylon in modern day Iraq also called a harlot? What’s interesting is as you go through the Bible the name “Jerusalem” is mentioned 800 times. The name Babylon is mentioned 300 times, all the way through the Old Testament. In fact, Babylon is where the nation of Israel went into captivity to; those cities were always kept separate. They’re always kept independent.
So why would John, at the end of the Book of Revelation take those cities, which are always separate, always independent, and merge them together? That’s an impossibility! Beyond that, how could the Book of Revelation be fulfilled in A.D. 70 when it’s very clear from church history, going back to Irenaeus, that the Book of Revelation was written in A.D. 95. Isn’t A. D. 95 after A. D. 70, by a quarter of a century? How could a book written 25 years later be a prophecy about something that happened 25 years earlier? Do you follow? So this idea that somehow Babylon equals Jerusalem, whether it’s from the preterist angel, meaning past, the angle that Hanegraaff is coming from, or any other angle, just doesn’t make any sense. So it’s not a religious system, it’s not Jerusalem.
Now by far the most popular interpretation out there is that Babylon equals Rome. Most Christians have been taught that, probably their entire lives. Babylon is not in modern day Iraq in the east; Babylon is actually a code name for Rome in the west. Why do people think that? Go down to Revelation 17 and notice verses 9 and 10. “Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits,  and they are seven kings;” now people see those words “seven mountains” and what they think it means is seven hills, it’s the seven hills of Rome they say. Ancient Rome, even to some extent modern day Rome, being laid out on seven hills. And they think that that therefore is speaking of Rome.
First of all, does it say seven hills there? Look at that, it doesn’t say seven hills, it says seven what? Mountains. The Greek word there is ora, there’s a completely different word for hill. And I’m very much in favor of literal interpretation except when the Bible wants to be understood allegorically and this is the case where the text specifically says “the seven mountains” represent something else. How do I know that? Because I have verse 10, “And they” the seven mountains, “are seven kings.” So it’s not even supposed to be calling our attention to seven hills or seven mountains; these seven mountains represent seven kings. Now as you go through prophetic material what you’ll see, Daniel 2:37-38, that king and kingdom are used synonymously. [Daniel 2:37-38, You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory;  and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.”]
It’s like when I say today the Trump, Donald Trump did X. I’m using “Trump” as a synonym for the White House or the executive branch of government, for a decision made by the United States of America. So we switch from king to kingdom very quickly. That’s exactly what you have going on here in Daniel 2:37-38 where Nebuchadnezzar is called a king whom God has given the kingdom. See the switch? Who are these seven mountains? We’ll be talking about them as we go through these chapters but they are not the seven hills of Rome; they are seven kings representing seven kingdoms which have been intoxicated throughout history by the Babylonian system. Egypt, Syria, Medo-Persia, Babylon, Greece, Rome, and then finally the Revived Roman System under the anti-Christ. More on that later.
Beyond that, how many images do you have in Revelation 17? A woman named Babylon rides the beast and that’s exactly what it’s going to look like because I found it on the internet. You don’t have one image in Revelation 17, you have two. Watch this very carefully. Revelation 17:3, “He carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast….” Now the woman is Babylon, the city. The “scarlet beast” she is riding and what does the scarlet beast have on, that particular beast? Seven horns representing seven mountains (later) and seven kings. Do you follow what just happened here? The seven mountains don’t even go with the woman named Babylon. They’re not even attached to the woman named Babylon. They’re attached to the beast that she is riding. And so therefore it is a total error to connect these seven mountains or allegedly seven hills with the woman; they actually belong to the beast.
See, these are all things that no one tells you when they give you their interpretation of Revelation 17 and 18. And what people say is well, Brother Andy, Brother Woods, come on, calm down here, we all know that Babylon is a code word for Rome because the Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:13, “She who is in Babylon sends you greetings.” And we all know that Peter didn’t die in Babylon, he died in Rome. The problem is what if that verse means what it says? Isn’t that amazing that I have to spend hours on a sermon just to tell people the verse means what it says? What if Peter was actually in Babylon when he wrote that? Ever thought about that? Then this whole code theory disappears.
Did Peter actually make it to Babylon? Let me ask you a question. Where was the nation of Israel taken into captivity? Babylon. Did you know that most of them stayed there and did not come back into the land following the end of the seven year captivity? Read Nehemiah, read Ezra, and you’ll see that.
Question: Peter is the apostle to the Gentiles or the Jews? The Jews! If Peter is the apostle to the Jews would it not have been logical for him to make a trip to Babylon, where most of the Jews were, to minister to them? In fact, according to Acts 2:9 there were actually people on the day of Pentecost from Mesopotamia (Babylon), Jews, who came to Jerusalem which Jews had to do at certain feast days, to listen to Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.
Beyond that Josephus makes a very interesting reference, he talks about a habitation at Babylon where there were Jews in great numbers. Why can’t I assume that Peter made a trip there and therefore in 1 Peter 5:13 when he says, “She who is from Babylon” greet you, why can’t that be taken literally? [1 Peter 5:13, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. NASB] And people don’t want to hear that because they’ve built this elaborate code system from the 1 Peter reference that a plain reading of the Bible destroys. You wouldn’t believe the headaches I went through on my dissertation trying to get that through and passed; nobody wanted to believe it— Andy, don’t you know that there was desolation in that part of the world, Strabo in his geography A.D. 25 talks about it. Really?
Have you read Strabo? What does Strabo actually say? “Strabo, who died in A.D. 25, is cited in proof that by this time no city was left.” Lange says, “This is an instance of how easily a lax quotation or assertion may falsify an author and an issue which once done other writers follow easily.” One writer makes a mistake and all the other writers follow that first writer, like [can’t understand word].
What Strabo says is: ‘And now indeed [Seleucia] has become greater than Babylon, which for the most part has become deserted’. [G. H. Lang, The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Select Studies (London: Paternoster, 1948), 302.] So Babylon never became completely deserted according to Strabo. That’s a misreading of Strabo. There have always been Jews living in Babylon and so Peter could easily made a journey there to visit them. Doesn’t Peter want to be understood literally at the beginning of his book, when he talks about Pontius, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia; do you take those words literally or are they a code? Those are actual places. Why would Peter all of a sudden at the end of the book use another geographical reference and say oh, sorry, just go on with the code. We would never read 1 Peter 1 that way, why would we read 1 Peter 5 that way?
Henry Morris writes this: “At the very least, it would be confusing to John’s first century readers, as well as to later generations, for him to write so much about Babylon when he really meant Rome (Paul was not afraid to speak directly against Rome in his writings, so why should John be?) or ‘the false church’ (all the apostles , including John, wrote plainly and scathingly about false teachers and false doctrines in the church and would not hide their teachings by symbols).” Or codes in other words. “It must be stressed that Revelation means “unveiling,” not “veiling.” In the absence of any statement in the text to the contrary, therefore, we must assume that the term Babylon applies to the real city of Babylon…” [Morris: The Revelation Record, 323]
That’s what it means in the Book of Revelation and that’s what it means in 1 Peter chapter 5. So why does everybody think that Babylon means Rome? It goes right back to Martin Luther who figured out that if you called the Pope the antichrist that would preach; people liked that! And so he (and I have the quote here) Martin Luther, John Calvin, I have the quote here which is a lengthy quote, which I don’t have time to give you, started this practice of demonizing their opposition by referring to Vatican as Babylon and referring to the Pope as the antichrist.
In other words, Calvin and Luther, who were so careful in their exegesis of the text on the doctrines of the Reformation, sola fide, faith alone; sola Christus, Christ alone, sola gracias, grace alone. I mean, they were just as clear and laborious on those doctrines as you could possibly be and they gave us the great Reformed proof, the five solas. When it came to the Book of Revelation though they were real sloppy; they got angry at the Roman Catholic system that they were in rebellion against so they started to call the Pope the antichrist and they started to call the Vatican or the city of Rome Babylon. And so that’s what’s stuck with us today; that’s what everybody thinks but it’s rooted in very sloppy exegesis.
Dave Hunt, who I adore, wrote a book called A Woman Rides the Beast, which is a great book, by the way, against the doctrines of Roman Catholicism. It is a lousy book on how to exegete Revelation 17 because Dave Hunt has brought back into evangelicalism through that book, which became a best seller, this idea that Babylon really means Rome. This is not Rome… well then, this is the Revived Rome of some kind. I’ve got no problem believing in a Revived Roman Empire coming out of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. But how many images do you see there in Revelation 17? A woman, image one, rides the beast, image two.
Yes, Revived Rome coming out of Europe obviously is going to play some kind of role in the end times; no doubt about that. But that’s not the end of the picture. There’s another strand of prophetic truth, the resurgence of the city of Babylon in the last days, and how those two strands of prophetic truth are resolved is the unveiling of the mystery in Revelation 17. By far, other than the Rome view, one of the most popular interpretations of it you have of this is the two Babylon views. Ecclesiastical Babylon, chapter 17; Political Babylon, chapter 18.
Back to John Walvoord. Babylon ecclesiastically symbolized by the woman in Revelation 17 proposes a common worship and a common religion through uniting in a world church. This church is destroyed by the beast in Revelation 17:16 who thus fulfills the Word of God, Revelation 17:17. What verse did he leave out there? Verse 18, which tells you who the woman is; it’s not a religious system alone, it’s a city.
[Revelation 17:16, “And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.  For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.  The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”]
He goes on and he says, “Babylon politically symbolized by the great city of Revelation 18 attempts to achieve its world domination by a common market and a world government. These are destroyed by Christ at His Second Coming. [Rev. 19:11–21).” [The Revelation of Jesus Christ: A Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1966), 267.] Bullinger, The Apocalypse or “The Day of the Lord”, 509]
Here’s what the vast majority of dispensationalists believe on this: Revelation 17 is a religious system destroyed halfway through the tribulation period. Revelation 18 is a different entity, it is a commercial and political system destroyed at the end of the tribulation period. Two different Babylon’s, two different destructions; Ecclesiastical Babylon, chapter 17; Commercial Babylon chapter 18. Non-literal Babylon, chapter 17, literal Babylon, chapter 18. The Babylon of chapter 17 is destroyed halfway through the tribulation period. The Babylon of chapter 18 is destroyed at the end of the tribulation period. Chapter 17 is about religion; chapter 18 is about commerce and politics.
We’ve got a big problem here folks; he just took the word “city” which is used in both chapters and interpreted them differently. Did you catch that? Walvoord, the best of the best, in terms of prophecy scholars, says, ““The city here according to verse 5 is a mystery, not a literal city…” And then he turns right around later in his commentary and gets to Revelation 18 and says the city in chapter 18 is literal. Wait a minute, it’s the exact same Greek word, polus. Why would one be non-literal and the other is literal. The answer is he’s trying to make a system work because this is the way he was taught it, going back to the Scofield Reference Bible.
The Scofield Reference Bible has two Babylon’s and two different destructions. Walvoord has come up with a view that is in harmony with the Scofield Reference Bible and in the process he’s allegorizing the same word used back to back in different chapters. You follow that? It’s very clear when you look at chapter 17 verse18 that it’s the word “city,” polus. The same exact word, chapter 18, verse10 is city, polus. Remember what Bullinger said? He does not say a system or a religion but a city. I mean, if you read through these chapters and you miss the point of this being a city and you just focus on the religious aspect you’ve missed the whole point of what God is communicating here.
Remember how this section started, Revelation 17:1, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the judgment of the harlot who sits on many waters.” Chronologically the Book of Revelation has been moving; we got to the seventh bowl, Babylon was destroyed, and now we have one of our five (anybody remember) NCP I’s, Non-Chronological Parenthetical Insertion giving us information about Babylon’s fall which just happened with bowl number seven. That’s why this section is in our Bible. So why would Revelation 17, which is describing something that just happened at the end of the tribulation period and all of a sudden completely back up in the sequence and take you back towards the beginning of the tribulation. That wouldn’t make any sense because the very angel that brought the destruction of Babylon now tells John, let me tell you a little bit about Babylon, the city which just fell.
As we go through these chapters I’m going to try to make the case that there’s a lot more that binds these chapters together than what divides them. They’re called the same names, they’re both called “city.” They both have the same clothing, they’re both holding a cup, they’re both fornicating with kings, they’re both drunk with immorality, they’re both persecuting believers, they’re both destroyed by fire and they’re both destroyed by God. What’s the point? Chapter 17 and 18 is the exact same city. Now chapter 17 says let me tell you about the religious side of the city. Chapter 18 says let me tell you about the commercial side of the city. But it’s the same city! It would be like going to any city in the United States and giving people a description about it, here’s what the banking is like, here’s what the economics is like, there’s a religious aspect, here’s what it’s like, here’s a housing aspect, but it’s the exact same city. It’s the very city that launched its rebellion against God in Genesis 11, that God shut down. And now Satan is given one more chance to do this.
How about current events? Do current events fit at all with what I’m talking about? I mean, you mean to tell me that Babylon is going to enjoy a resurgence and be restored as a worldwide city in the last days? Aren’t you doing newspaper exegesis, where you’re reading current events back into the Bible? All of these interpreters that I have here, look at the dates.
Early Babylon Interpreters
Selss (1909, Larkin (1919),
Ice, “Babylon in Bible Prophecy,” 5, www.pre-trib.org.
All of them have almost the identical view that I have of Babylon. And yet Govett has that view in 1813-1901. Newton, 1853, Newell (1935) that was long before the modern day crisis in the Middle East. It comes from just a simple reading of the Biblical text. Is it not interesting that our attention has been moved eastward. We used to fight our wars, World War I, World War II, in Europe and isn’t it interesting how things began to cycle eastward, Korea, Vietnam, and where is most of our attention today as we look at the news? In the Middle East, what the Holy Spirit has been saying that what began in that part of the world is going to end in that part of the world.
How about the geography? Does the geography of that area there in Iraq, support a world capital in that part of the world. Henry Morris writes, “Computer studies of the Institute for Creation Research have shown, for example, that Babylon is very near the geographical center of all the earth’s land masses. It is within navigable distances of the Persian Gulf and is at the crossroads of the three great continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. Thus there is no more ideal location anywhere for a world trade center, a world communication center, a world banking center, a world educational center, or especially, a world capital! The greatest historian of modern times, Arnold Toynbee, used to stress to all his readers and hearers that Babylon would be the best place in the world to build a future world cultural metropolis.” [The Revelation Record, 349]
That’s what the Bible says would happen. Where is most of the world’s oil supply today? Do you realize that if the antichrist were to come to power in Iraq and annex the surrounding countries within a nanosecond they would control the whole economies of the world and sixty percent of the world’s oil supply? Black gold, which is necessary for the economies of the world to run. All these current events point in the direction of what the Bible says would happen one day. And you run into these types of headlines: Iraq tries to get Babylon on the World Heritage List. Iraq celebrates naming Babylon a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Or how about this one, this comes from a professor at the Army War College writing an article that the United Nations Building should be moved out of New York City (I’m in favor of that by the way, get this thing out of here). Well, where do you want to move it to? We want to move it to Iraq; he writes a whole article explaining why Iraq would be the perfect place for the United Nations building. Oh come on, Andy, if we got to sit around and wait for Babylon to be rebuilt the rapture is a long way off. I mean, I look at Babylon today and it really doesn’t represent a world capital, and we didn’t have to sit around and wait for that to happen before the rapture can occur, because after all, the rapture occurs in the tribulation period comes right after. Right? That’s how we’ve got our prophecy charts drawn. Are you sure about that?
Look at this chart, from my friend, J. B. Hixson. He’s got the rapture and then he’s got a period of preparation before the tribulation period starts. Did you know that the older the commentators are the more they saw that time gap? Bollinger said there could be thirty years between the rapture and the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel. Clarence Larkin said there could be 25 or 50 years. So if they’re right why can’t Babylon be built in that gap after the rapture? Do you follow.
Beyond that, people argue there’s no way a city could be built that rapidly. Well, remember the Chicago fire from the previous generations. Some of you may not want to answer that because it’ll indicate how old you are. Do you realize how fast the city of Chicago was rebuilt following the fire. Clarence Larkin talks about that. How about the modern city of Dubai (which by the way is not that far from Iraq) sometimes called the internet city. Do you realize how fast that city was built? I mean, we’re not living in a time era anymore where you have to sit around and wait for a vast amount of time for cities of great influence to be rebuilt as these pictures of Dubai demonstrate.
I ran into this newspaper article while I was preparing recently, Neom, Saudi Arabia, a prince’s five hundred billion desert dream, flying cars, robot dinosaur’s, and a giant artificial moon at the tune of five hundred billion dollars and it was built in a very short period of time. You shouldn’t fall for the argument that, you know, gosh, we’ve got to wait for Babylon to be rebuilt, it’s going to be a long time before the rapture. First of all, cities can be built very rapidly and beyond that there could be a period of time following the rapture before the 70th week of Daniel starts, when Babylon will be rebuilt. There are all kinds of ways that this can happen.
Come on, Andy, modern day Iraq, Babylon, they don’t even have a harbor, I mean, isn’t Revelation 18 talking about a city that is destroyed and the seafaring merchants of the earth mourn? How could that be modern day Babylon, they don’t even have a harbor there? Well, this was a problem that Saddam Hussein had. This article says this: ““It was unacceptable to Saddam [Hussein] that a country as great as Iraq did not have a long coastline. Over and over he talked about the necessity of building a Navy and becoming a seafaring power. Iraq’s isolation from the sea was a cruel accident of history, he believed, and one that had to be rectified—a theme he continued to dwell on after his invasion of Kuwait.” [Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1991), 191-192.]
One more newspaper clip. “Actually,” this writer says, “the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers converge in southern Iraq and enter the Persian Gulf in Iraqi territory. The problem has been that Iran and Kuwait squeeze Iraq into a bottleneck at the mouth of the rivers and Iraq’s attempts to forge a harbor there have been thwarted by the hostile refusals of those two countries. But suppose international pressures were brought to bear upon Iran to allow Iraq access to the Shatt al-Arab waterway all the way to Basra and cooperation could be coerced from Kuwait to open up the area around its little island of Bubiyan and Warba.” [Dan Hayden, Iraq: In the Crosshairs of Destiny: What the Bible Says About the Future of Iraq (Altamonte Springs, FL: Advantage Books, 2008), 115.]
A commercial port and harbor for ships could become a reality for Babylon in a relatively short period of time. With modern dredging equipment, a deep channel waterway could be opened from the Persian Gulf all the way to Babylon. With its location on the Euphrates River, ships and sailors could indeed have access to this future queen of modern cities. The Antichrist ruler, with his political and economic power and global influence, could easily make that happen. So, as you can see, a harbor in Babylon is not at all out of the question.” [Dan Hayden, Iraq: In the Crosshairs of Destiny: What the Bible Says About the Future of Iraq (Altamonte Springs, FL: Advantage Books, 2008), 115.]
Look, I don’t claim to be a prophet but I’m a Bible reader and I think what the Bible says is Babylon means Babylon! And there are all kinds of scenarios that could easily come into play whereby that city will return to life, it will become a worldwide capital that will dominate the world in the end times. Do you realize that when you went through commentaries prior to 1948 there were people that said in their commentaries Israel has to be born again as a nation and do you realize which utter contempt and ridicule such commentators were treated… what a ridiculous idea. I mean, you mean to tell me the Jews are going to come back into their own land after two thousand years of dispersion. You’re taking everything too literally. Right?
What I’m suggesting is the exact thing is about to happen with Babylon, because God means what He says and says what he means. He said Israel is going to come back as a nation, it seemed completely crazy and yet here we are, Israel is alive and well politically. Babylon, a literal construction our interpretation of these prophecies, demonstrates that Babylon is destined to become a world capital and I’m not at all surprised to see the same thing could very well happen, even in our own lifetime.
The Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 1 and verse 9 says, “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done because there is nothing new under the sun.” In the very part of the world where the first world capital existed under Nimrod at the tower of Babel that God disrupted is the exact same part of the world where Satan is going to be given one last chance to rule planet earth through a reincarnation of the tower of Babel in the exact place where the original tower of Babel stood in the land of Shinar. What has been will be again. History is cyclical.
You say well what’s the point of application. I guess the only point of application I would draw is this: God is in control of the patterns of history. God is sovereign, everything that He says will be fulfilled, and things are recycling back to where they started. And if God has everything so under control why are you so worried about the things going on in your life? I mean, isn’t God sovereign over history… AMEN, PRAISE THE LORD… well then God is sovereign over my child today. There is nothing to take God off guard.
And our exhortation to folks here at Sugar Land Bible Church is to trust in the Savior, Jesus Christ, who stepped out of eternity into time to bear a penalty in His own body that we could never pay. He died on the cross, he said “It is finished!” He resurrected from the dead and He ascended back to the right hand of the Father. And all He asks us to do is to enter into a relationship with Him that God, whose sovereign over history is to believe or to trust in the One whom He has sent, Jesus Christ. And that’s something you can do now in the quietness of your own thoughts and heart and mind as the Holy Spirit places folks under conviction. Trust in Jesus and be aligned with the One who is in control of history. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.
And now that we have finished this background on the Babylon, as I’ve probably babbled on a little too much about Babylon, we will be prepared to now look into Revelation 17 and 18, which we will do next Lord’s day. Shall we pray.
Father, we’re grateful for Your truth, Your Word, Your control over history. Help us to rest and trust in You and walk with You in Your sovereign design, not only for the world but also for our individual lives. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said….. Amen!