John describes “the great prostitute” in Revelation 17, and prophesies her destruction in chapter 18. Bible scholars over the years have identified the Babylon of this passage as Rome, or the actual city of Babylon.
Rome makes sense for many reasons, including Revelation 17:10 when, as John is explaining his vision of a recurring political system during the times of the Gentiles, he refers to the king(dom) which exists, present tense, at the time he is writing it (Rome). Also verses 17:6; 18:24 and 19:2 allude to a history of deadly persecution of God’s people. Rome fits the bill in these respects.
The literal city of Babylon also fits parts of the description nicely as well. The city fell to the Persians via subterfuge, and has never yet been destroyed in the manner prophesied by Isaiah and Jeremiah. In fact, Saddam Hussein instigated a rebuilding effort of the city, including the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. Remember Babylon was originally Babel, the epicenter of the original one-world government, and the birthplace of pagan religions. Most, if not all, false gods can be traced back to Babylon, as can astrology and so many other superstitions and occultic practices. A fitting seat of power for a future world leader called “the Assyrian” by some of the prophets, who will institute a global religion which combines the elements of all the demonic doctrines derived from Babel, right?
The woman riding the beast is more than just a city, you’ll discover as you plumb the depth of John’s vision. And the beast is more than an empire, or succession of empires, or an emperor. But for now I’m only discussing Mystery Babylon the city. How can it be both Rome and literal Babylon? Perhaps there’s a clue in Zechariah 5:5-11.
Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, “Look up and see what is appearing.”
I asked, “What is it?”
He replied, “It is a basket.” And he added, “This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land.”
Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! He said, “This is wickedness,” and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed its lead cover down on it.
Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth.
“Where are they taking the basket?” I asked the angel who was speaking to me.
He replied, “To the country of Babylonia to build a house for it. When the house is ready, the basket will be set there in its place.”
Notice, first of all, that these 2 women had wings of a stork–an unclean bird, which rings a bell from Revelation 18:1—
“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird…
Also notice that they are taking this basket to Babylonia (modern day Iraq, which, with Syria, was historically called Assyria), inside of which is the city of Babylon.
Diligent study has led many scholars to speculate that during the end times, a major world religious capitol (Rome/the Vatican) will be relocated to Babylon, which will then become the world religious capitol…again. This vision of the two winged women carrying the basket to Babylonia might just confirm the theory.
But what about the third woman–the one inside the basket? Actually, she might help resolve the problem I’ve had with the Rome/Babylon interpretation of the great prostitute vision.
See, when I read Revelation 17:15 (Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.), I can see how that might allude to Catholicism (headquartered in Rome), or the New World Religion that will be headquartered in Babylon. But I can also think of a third city that fits this description quite well.
When John mentions the luxuries and largesse this whore adorns herself with (17:4; 18:7) and the adulteries she commits with the kings and inhabitants of the earth (17:2, 4; 18:3, 9, 16), it brings to mind a present-day city which is neither Rome nor Babylon.
But when I read Revelation 17, 18 and 19, what most suggests this third city (despite the wisdom of theologians and eschatologists before me) is this theme: The beast will hate this harlot/city that “rules over the kings of the earth,” and will conspire to destroy her. Yet when she is destroyed, the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her will mourn along with the merchants and shipping tycoons who grew rich off her excessive consumerism. And when she is destroyed, there is no longer anyone to buy their products. This city/harlot “rules over” the rich and powerful of the world, who hate her and lust for her destruction, yet will mourn her destruction when it comes because they got rich off of her.
There’s still some momentous history to unfold before the fat lady sings, but from where I sit right now, every time I read this vision, I can’t help thinking of New York/Wall Street in microcosm, and the USA in macrocosm.
New York/Wall Street is the current financial capitol of the world. Businesses all over the globe have and do get rich off of this economic whore, and yet hate the USA and hate that the US dollar is still the international standard in exchange. The world longs for the destruction of America…yet who will buy their goods in the volume we do once we’re gone?
Could the vision in Zechariah be hinting that the relocation is twofold–that the financial epicenter will move from New York, the religious headquarters will shift from Rome, and all will be consolidated in the rebuilt Babylon? Remember that in this New World Order, finance and religion will be inseparable: people must worship the beast and accept his mark, or they won’t be allowed to buy or sell (Revelation 13:4, 8, 15-17). Also remember that by the tribulation period, the United States of America is so insignificant as not to be mentioned in any of the end-time prophecies (unless you want to argue that she has a cameo in Ezekiel and/or is part of this unholy triad).
I could expound on this quite a bit. Maybe there will be a Part 2 later.