Who Is the Harlot Babylon of Revelation?
This is a summary from my book CHRISTIAN HOPE THROUGH FULFILLED PROPHECY.
There is universal agreement that the major theme of Revelation is the judgment upon Babylon. The disagreement is about who Babylon is, and, when her judgment takes place.
First of all, there are some 30 passages throughout the book of Revelation that demand that its fulfillment was imminent—close in time to the writer. Two of these stand like bookends to the whole book: Revelation 1:1-3 and 22:6-20. While this is a foreign idea for many evangelical Christians, these imminence passages make it impossible that Revelation is about events of the 21st century. God can tell time and He did not deceive us. I detail numerous reasons in my book why Revelation points to the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
Specifically, regarding the Babylon of Revelation, consider this excerpt from the magnificent section of Revelation, chapters 18 and 19:
Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come. . . . For in one hour she is made desolate. Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her! . . . And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth. . . . After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are his judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of his servants shed by her.” . . . Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. . . . And He has on his robe and on his thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 18:10b; 19b, 20, 24; 19:1, 2, 11, 16)
You might want to stop and read chapters 17, 18, and 19 in their entirety. The great city Babylon is judged at the coming of the Lord. Who is this great city called Babylon? We have plenty of information to identify her as none other than old covenant Jerusalem. The term great city is used five times in Revelation: 11:8, 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21. Note the context in chapter 11:
And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually [symbolically in some versions] is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. (Revelation 11:8)
Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. So “the great city” (Babylon) is clearly identified. This is unmistakable. For further confirmation, we find that it is here referred to as Sodom and Egypt. The only city referred to symbolically in the Bible as Sodom is old covenant Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 32:28-33; Isaiah 1:9-10; Jeremiah 23:14, and Ezekiel 16:46-57). Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, stated that it was the Jews who killed Jesus, and thus was the target God’s wrath. We also note that in Revelation 18:20, 24 (above) the apostles and prophets rejoiced at the impending judgment of Babylon for her persecution of them. No other city in history can be identified with persecuting the prophets: “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).
The reader will also remember from Chapter 5 that Jesus himself said that judgment for the blood of all the prophets in history would fall upon Jerusalem in his own generation (Matthew 23:29-39; Luke 11:47-53; 13:33-35). Revelation references these passages several times (Revelation 6:10; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2). Compare Jesus’ words with Revelation 18:24: “And in her [Babylon] was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” Babylon could not refer to any other city in any other time period. These are undeniable proofs that point to Jerusalem and AD 70.
It is also significant that the Babylon of Revelation is described as being a harlot (Revelation 17:1, 5, 15; 19:2). Whenever Israel was unfaithful, she is characterized as a harlot or adulterer (Deuteronomy 31:16-18; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:6-9; 5:7; 13:27; Ezekiel 6:8-9; 16:15-17, 20, 22, 25-26, 28-31; 33-36, 41; 23:37; Hosea 1:2; 6:10; 9:1). Also of note, we see that the harlot Babylon “was arrayed in purple and scarlet” (Revelation 17:4). These colors were those of the ritual dress of the high priest and the colors that adorned the temple (Exodus 26:1; 27:16; 28:5, 6, 8, 15, 33; 35:6, 23, 25, 35; 36:8, 35; 38:18; 39:1, 2; 2 Chronicles 3:14).
There is more. In Revelation 18:4, God’s people are commanded to “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.” The only city Jesus ever commanded his followers to flee from was Jerusalem, when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies in conjunction with the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15-16; Luke 21:20-22). Church father Eusebius recorded that this departure did in fact happen, and no Christians were trapped and destroyed in the siege of Jerusalem.
In Revelation 3:9, Jesus calls the Jews as being of the “synagogue of Satan.” Compare this with John 8:39, 44.
Still more. This Babylon would be destroyed (Revelation 18:2, 8, 10, 11, 17, 19-23). The only city Jesus said would be destroyed was Jerusalem, saying that it would be “left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38), and in reference to the temple “not one stone left on another” (Matthew 24:2).
Over and over the same picture emerges. It is Jerusalem in the generation of Jesus, Paul, and John that is the target of John’s revealed judgment. Jerusalem was to be judged for the specific crimes listed in Matthew 23:13-39 and Revelation 17-19. The judgment was to come upon Jerusalem soon, and it did. Jerusalem was judged in the first century for her historic crimes. Only one city in the world and one time in history fits the description—the city where the Lord was slain. There is no reason to believe she will ever be judged again for those crimes.
Mr. Meek is also the editor of one of the oldest apologetics websites on the internet http://www.FaithFacts.org, and is administrator of a Facebook page by the same name. He is also an administrator of the Facebook page Evangelical Preterism.
You are invited to see my articles in Section B at this website, including “When Was Revelation Written” and “Who Was the Beast of Revelation?”