I. Introduction. Chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation tell of the final destruction of Babylon in both its religious and political forms. It is helpful to consider chapter 17 as dealing with Babylon as a religious entity and chapter 18 as dealing with Babylon as a commercial and political entity. It is also helpful in chapter 17 to distinguish the vision in verses one through six from the interpretation in verses seven through eighteen.
A. Series Title. Israel In Revelation.
B. Video Title: New Babylon Rising.
C. Article Title: End Times 30, Revelation 17:1-18, The Destruction Of Religious Babylon.
D. Article Focus: “Babylon means Babylon,” and not Rome, or New York City, or any other city. Additionally, the words in Rev 17:5: “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT,” are incorrect. The correcting wording is: “a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT.” Consider how many times we have heard, MYSTERY BABYLON; we will address this controversy. The second video discusses Babylon, in great detail.
II. Key Verse. Rev 17:5. There are many opinions of this verse. We will discuss the factors of the verse, as well as those of the total 17th Chapter of Revelation. We will consider the worldwide ecumenical religion that will be driven by the forces of the antichrist, which will be responsible for the persecution and murder of Jews and Gentiles, those of whom choose not to become a follower of this worldwide religion, and will not worship the image of the beast (Rev 13:4-17), but whom come to saving faith in Christ during the tribulation.
A. Revelation 17:5 (NKJV)
5 And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
B. Revelation 17:5 (NAS77)
5. and upon her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
III. Consider “mystery.”
A. Ephesians 5:31-32 (The mystery of Christ and the church).
31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
B. Colossians 1:26-28 (The mystery of the Spirit of Christ dwelling within the spirit of believers in Christ).
26 that is, the mystery which had been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what the wealth of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles is, the mystery that is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ.
C. 1 Corinthians 15:50-51 (The mystery of: (1) the resurrection of deceased believers in Christ. (2) The mystery of the rapture of living believers in Christ.
50 Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I am telling you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.
D. Consider the meaning of mystery.
1 Corinthians 15:51 mystery. This term refers to truth hidden in the past and revealed in the NT. In this case, the rapture of the church was never revealed in the OT. It was first mentioned in John 14:2-6, when it is specifically explained, and is detailed in 1 Thes 4:13–18.
E. Consider the translation of Rev 17:5. “a mystery, Babylon” and “MYSTERY, BABYLON.”
1. Greek Interlinear states, “a mystery” Babylon https://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/17-5.htm
2. NIV, NASB, CSB, NET translations state, “a mystery, Babylon.” (The NIV 2011 translation).
3. NKJV, KJV, KJV 2000, American KJV, ASV, ERV translations state, “MYSTERY, BABYLON.”
4. Necessary conclusions.
(a) What is the correct Bible translation that relates to Rev 17:5?
(b) What is the mystery of Babylon?
F. Location Considerations.
1. The city of Babylon. There are 259 OT scriptures that identify the literal place of Babylon. In the NT, the following verses clearly identify the literal location of Babylon (Matt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43; 1 Pet 5:13; Rev 18:10).
(a) 1 Peter 5:13 (NASB) “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark.”
(b) Rev 18:10, “Babylon, the strong city!” 18:21, “Babylon, the great city.”
2. The great city of Babylon, vs “no great city.” Some may say that there is no such city in Iraq that represents the Revelation depiction of Babylon. The following link discusses how quickly cities can be built in the Middle East. https://www.businessinsider.com/dubai-rapid-development-skyscrapers-expansion-warning-2018-12
IV. Full Text. Revelation 17 (NASB).
A. The Doom of Babylon. Chapters 17, 18 focus on one aspect of those bowl judgments, the judgment of Babylon.
1. Verses 1-7.
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 great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” 6 And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly. 7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
2. Notes: 17:1-7.
vs 1: “great harlot.” Prostitution frequently symbolizes idolatry or religious apostasy. “sits on many waters.” This picture emphasizes the sovereign power of the harlot. The picture is of a ruler seated on a throne, ruling the waters, which symbolize the nations of the world (see v. 15)
vs 2. “committed fornication.” The harlot will ally herself with the world’s political leaders. Fornication here does not refer to sexual sin, but to idolatry. All the world rulers will be absorbed into the empire of Satan’s false christ. “wine of her fornication.” The harlot’s influence will extend beyond the world’s rulers to the rest of mankind. The imagery does not describe actual wine and sexual sin, but pictures the world’s people being swept up into the intoxication and sin of a false system of religion.
vs 3. “a woman.” The harlot of v. 1, Babylon. “scarlet beast.” The Antichrist, who for a time will support and use the false religious system to effect world unity. Then he will assume political control (cf. v. 16). “having seven heads and ten horns.” This pictures the extent of Antichrist’s political alliances.
vs 5. “forehead.” It was customary for Roman prostitutes to wear a headband with their name on it. The harlot’s forehead is emblazoned with a 3-fold title descriptive of the world’s final false religious system. “MYSTERY.” A NT mystery is truth once hidden, but in the NT revealed. Spiritual Babylon’s true identity is yet to be revealed. Thus, the precise details of how it will be manifested in the world are not yet known. “BABYLON THE GREAT.” This Babylon is distinct from the historical, geographical city of Babylon (which still existed in John’s day). “MOTHER OF HARLOTS.” All false religion stems ultimately from Babel, or Babylon (cf. Gen. 11; see note on 14:8).
vs 6. “the blood of the saints…martyrs of Jesus.” Some see the first group as OT saints, and the second as NT saints—an unimportant distinction since this pictures the martyrs of the Tribulation. John’s point is that the harlot is a murderer. False religion has killed millions of believers over the centuries, and the final false system will be far more deadly than any that preceded it.
vs 7. “mystery.” Not that Babylon is a false system of religion, because that is already known, but that the beast will fully support the harlot and together exert vast influence over the whole earth.
3. Verses 8-13.
8 “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. 9 Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. 11 The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. 12 The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.
4. Notes: Verses 8-13.
vs 8. “The beast.” Both a king and kingdom are referred to by this term. was, and is not, and will ascend. A reference to the Antichrist’s resurrection (13:3, 4, 12–14). “out of the bottomless pit.” After his “resurrection,” the Antichrist will become possessed by a great demon from the abyss. “perdition.” “Eternal destruction. “This is the lake of fire, the place of Antichrist’s destruction (19:20). “Book of Life.” Written in eternity past by God.
vs 9. “seven mountains.” The Gr. word is often used of hills. the final worldwide system of false religion includes. the 7 mountains in context likely symbolize the 7 kingdoms and their kings of v. 10.
vs 10. “seven kings.” Representatives of the 7 great world empires (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and that of the Antichrist). Cf. Daniel’s image in Dan. 2:37–45. Five have fallen, one is, and the other. When John wrote, the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek empires had gone out of existence; Rome still existed; and the Antichrist’s empire had not yet come. When it does, it will be brief (12:12; 13:5) and he will end in perdition.
vs 11. “and is not…the eighth.” The Antichrist’s kingdom is said to be both the seventh and eighth kingdoms because of his supposed demise and resurrection. He is the seventh king before and the eighth king after his “resurrection” when he destroys the harlot’s religious empire and demands exclusive worship of himself (v. 16).
vs 12. “ten kings.” (cf. Dan. 2:41, 42). These kings are sub-rulers under the Antichrist, whose empire will apparently be divided into 10 administrative districts. “no kingdom as yet.” Thus, the kings cannot be identified with any historical figures. “one hour.” Symbolic of the brief 3½ year period of time (cf. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 12, 14; 13:5; 18:10, 17, 19).
B. Victory for the Lamb.
1. Verses 14-18.
14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” 15 And he *said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 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. 17 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. 18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
2. Notes. Verses 14-18.
vs 14. “make war.” A reference to the battle of Armageddon (16:14–16), where the Lamb will utterly destroy the kings (19:17–21). “Lord of lords and King of kings.” A title for God (19:16) that emphasizes His sovereignty over all other rulers to whom He has delegated authority.
vs 16. “these will hate the harlot.” After using the false religious system to unify the world kingdoms and gain control of all, the Antichrist—with the help of his 10 sub-rulers—will turn against the system, plunder and destroy it, and seize all power and worship for himself. They will be carrying out God’s will (v. 17). Cf. Gen. 50:20.
vs 18. “great city.” Here is another identification of the capital city of Babylon, centerpiece of Antichrist’s empire.
A. Conclusion 1. “Babylon means Babylon.” The NIV (2011 Translation), NASB, CSB, and NET are correct in their translation of Rev 17:5, “a mystery, Babylon.” The closing video, that is provided by Dr. Andy Woods, provides a clarifying discussion of this subject. Check out my Equipping Site Page, “About Sources,” to see Andy’s credentials, “degrees and linked experiences.”
B. Conclusion 2. The MacArthur note on verse 7 provides the answer to the question about the mystery of the text: “mystery.” Not that Babylon is a false system of religion, because that is already known, but that the beast will fully support the harlot, and together exert vast influence over the whole earth.
VI. Video Details.
A. Opening Video.
1. New Babylon Rising – Mark Hitchcock – Truth To Go. Jun 29, 2010. 100huntley.
2. Mark Hitchcock is a leading Bible prophecy expert, prolific author who has penned over 20 books on the end times, senior pastor, and adjunct faculty member of the Dallas Theological Seminary. He has appeared on hundreds of radio programs and in print as well as The History Channel, MSNBC, Fox, The Glenn Beck Show, and CNN. He is teaching on his book, “The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy”
3. Credentials for Mark Hitchcock can be seen on my About Sources Page.
B. Closing Video.
1. This video digs deep into the facts that reveal the location of Rev 17 Babylon.
2. Andy Woods – Revelation (Crash Course) Part IX: Chapter 17-19. Oct 11, 2019. 29:31.
Unravelations. Dr. Andy Woods teaches 10 sessions of 30 minutes covering the entire Book of Revelation. These presentations were featured on the College of Biblical Studies’ TV program entitled “Up With the Son.”
3. Credentials for Andy Woods can be seen on my About Sources Page.
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