IS JERUSALEM “MYSTERY BABYLON”?
I must confess that the first time I heard that “Mystery Babylon” is Jerusalem, my immediate reaction was, “Oh I don’t think so, because God loved Jerusalem, but His angels rejoiced over the destruction of “Mystery Babylon”. My thoughts went to Luke 13:34, where we read, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”. Here Christ compared Himself to a hen who would gather her brood, even though they had killed the prophets. Had it not been for the setting aside of Israel at Acts 28, that statement would have been made just a few decades before the destruction of Mystery Babylon in the day of God’s vengeance.
Bearing that in mind, let us consider the reaction of God’s angels at the destruction of the city. Consider, for example, Rev. 19:1, “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God”. And again in verse 3, “And again they said, ‘Alleluia‘”. And again in verse 6, “Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth”.
My point is that there was great rejoicing in heaven at the destruction of this city. And rightfully so because God’s prophets were avenged, and the Lord will reign. But would there be such great rejoicing if it were Jerusalem that had been destroyed? Jerusalem, the city of David, the capital city of the nation which was the “apple of His eye”? The city over which Christ spoke so lovingly even though in the same sentence He recognized their sin in killing the prophets. But I recognize that this is just a first reaction, and certainly does not prove anything. So let us search the Scriptures for the truth in this matter.
GOD’S PROMISE TO NEVER AGAIN DESTROY JERUSALEM
Ezek. 5:9 reads, “And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like”. The context will show that this verse has to do with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. But please note, God said the He would “not do any more the like”. In other words, we read here God’s promise that He will never again destroy Jerusalem.
It is clear however, that mystery Babylon will indeed be destroyed by God. This verse alone should prove that Jerusalem is not mystery Babylon.
WHAT WAS THE MYSTERY OF “MYSTERY BABYLON”?
Let us first consider the passage that speaks of “Mystery Babylon”. We read in Rev. 17:3-5, “So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”.
From what I have read by those who believe that “Mystery Babylon” is Jerusalem, it seems that most assume that the mystery associated with the woman who represents the great city is which city she represents. It is imperative that we understand from Scripture exactly what the mystery was that was associated with this woman.
Verses 3-5, quoted above, tell us that John saw a woman sitting on a beast. In verse 7 the angel said to John, “I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her…..”. Verses 8-17 reveal the meaning of the mystery of the beast, and verse 18 reveals the mystery of the woman herself. We read in that verse, “and the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth”. The mystery associated with the great city is not which city the woman represents, it is that the city reigns over the kings of the earth. If the mystery was which city the woman represented, the angel would have revealed the name when he revealed the mystery in verse 18. But he did not, he revealed the fact that the woman represents a city that reigns over the kings of the earth. Again, the mystery is not which city the woman represents, the mystery is that the city she represents “reigneth over the kings of the earth”.
We are now ready to ask the question: Which great city did the woman represent? The upper case letters in the woman’s name as given in the KJV are not, of course, part of the Greek manuscript, they are the interpretation by the translators. The phrase “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” is a description, not a name. I suggest therefore, that that phrase not be included in the name of the woman. But what about the word “mystery”, is that part of her name? It might be helpful to note that the NASB has in verse 5, “and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, BABYLON THE GREAT……..”. But let us get the answer to our question from Scriptures themselves rather than any one particular translation.
If we include the word “mystery” in the woman’s name, it implies that it is the name of the city that is a mystery or secret. That is to say, the phrase “Mystery Babylon” implies that the woman does not represent Babylon itself, but that “Babylon” is put for some other city. But as we learned in Rev. 17:18, the mystery is not which city she represents, but that she will reign over the kings of the earth. Therefore, I believe that the phrase “Mystery Babylon” as it appears in the KJV is quite misleading and that the word “mystery” should not be included in the woman’s name.
If we leave off the word mystery, which is not part of her name, and we leave off the description “the mother of harlots and abomination of the earth” we have the woman’s name as “BABYLON THE GREAT”. So the woman’s name that will appear upon her forehead will be “BABYLON THE GREAT”. And the mystery as to what the woman represents is that the great city will reign over the kings of the earth.
The point of all this is to show that there is no Scriptural reason to say that the woman, whose name is “BABYLON THE GREAT” is any city other than Babylon. We are told her name and we are told the mystery surrounding her. Neither includes any hint of Jerusalem. Further, if we do see this woman as representing Jerusalem we have a woman representing a city which represents a different city. That makes no sense. In short, I believe that the woman represents the city of Babylon.
A DISCUSSION OF THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN BABYLON AND JERUSALEM
Many point to the similarities between the description of Babylon with Jerusalem and assume from that that Babylon represents Jerusalem. But I believe we must take into consideration the fact that Revelation is a book about the end times. One of the main characteristics of the end times is Satan’s attempt to counterfeit what is God’s . Let us consider some of those counterfeits.
THE COUNTERFEIT OF CHRIST HIMSELF
We read in II Thess. 2:4, “who (the antichrist) opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God; shewing himself that he is God“. We know that Christ is God and will sit in the Temple of God in His millennial reign. But we read here of the antichrist claiming to be Christ. Is this not a counterfeit of the greatest magnitude?
THE COUNTERFEIT OF CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION
We read in Rev. 13:3, “And I saw one of his (the beast) heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed….”. Here we have the antichrist, represented as one of the heads of the beast, which was “wounded to death”. The note in the Companion Bible makes this meaning very clear. That note reads, “deadly wound = death stroke“. So this verse tells us that the antichrist died and was “healed”. Is this not a counterfeit of Christ’s death and resurrection?
THE COUNTERFEIT OF THE NAME ON THE FOREHEAD OF THE 144,000
In Rev. 7:3 we read of the sealing of the 144,000, “…hurt not the earth…….till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads“. Rev. 14:1 tells us that it is the Father’s name which is written on the foreheads of the 144,000. The note in the Companion Bible on this sealing is very interesting: “This sealing is visible and protects the elect (Matt. 24:31) of Israel during the tribulation, marking them off as worshippers of the true God”.
Let us consider the mark of the beast. We read in Rev. 13:16-17. “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
The mark of the beast is a counterfeit of God’s sealing of the 144,000.
THE COUNTERFEIT OF GOD’S MIRACLE OF FIRE FROM HEAVEN
Let us also consider the miracles described in Rev. 13:13-15, “and he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men”. This is an obvious counterfeit of the miracle recorded in I Kings 18:30-38 where after taunting the prophets of Baal, Elijah soaked the altar of God with water and in verse 38 we read, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench”. Again, we see Satan’s counterfeit, this time the counterfeit of the miracle of God in I Kings 18.
SATAN’S ARMY OF REV. NINE AND GOD’S ARMY OF JOEL TWO
We read in Rev. 9:3-11 of an army of locusts. Verses 7-8 describe these locusts, “And the shape of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads, were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. and they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle”.
And we also read in Joel 2:4-10 of an army of locusts. Verses 4-5 describe them, “the appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array”.
Note the similarities: both armies were locusts that looked like horses. Note both passages mention the noise of this army. But they are not the same army. The army of Rev. 9 is Satan’s army. Rev. 9:11 reads, “and they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon”. The note in the Companion Bible tells us that “Abaddon” means “destruction” and Apollyon” means “destroyer”. Given that the head of this army comes from the “bottomless pit”, we may conclude that Satan is the king of this army.
On the other hand, verse 11 of Joel 2 tells us that that army is the Lord’s army, “and the Lord shall utter His voice before His army….”.
My point is that even though there are similarities in these two armies of locusts, it is clear that Satan’s army, which will march in the tribulation is a counterfeit of God’s army which will march in the day of the Lord.
THE COUNTERFEIT OF JERUSALEM
We come now to a discussion of the similarities of the end time Jerusalem and the end time Babylon. Given that we are told quite specifically that the woman of Rev. 17 represents the city of Babylon and that the mystery surrounding the woman is not which city she represents but that she reigns over the kings of the earth (Rev. 17:18), I believe we may conclude that Babylon is yet another counterfeit of the things of God. In this case Babylon is the counterfeit of Jerusalem. (We will consider the significance of this counterfeit in a section below.)
But there is even more convincing evidence that the great city that will be destroyed in the day of the Lord is not Jerusalem, but Babylon. We read in Rev. 18:10, “….Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that great city! for in one hour is thy judgment come”. And in verse 17 of that same chapter we read, “For in one hour so great riches is come to nought…..”. And again in verse 19 we read, “Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate”.
Now let us compare this with some Old Testament prophecies concerning Babylon. Is. 47:1 reads, “…..come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon….”. And in verse 5 we read, “sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called the lady of kingdoms”. My point is that this passage concerns the punishment of Babylon of the Chaldees, not Jerusalem. Let us continue with verses 8-11 for the Scriptural account of Babylon’s punishment.
“Therefore hear now this…..that sayest in thine heart…… ‘I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children’. But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments. ………Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know”.
This prophecy has not been fulfilled. Ancient Babylon did fall into ruins, but certainly not suddenly, in one day. If we attribute the punishment of Babylon in “one hour” (Rev. 18:10, 17, and 19) to Jerusalem we have an unfulfilled prophecy.
Let us also consider Rev. 18:21, “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all“. But Jerusalem will be the city in which Christ Himself will reign in the millennium. That is to say, it cannot be said of Jerusalem that She will be “found no more at all”.
And we read several times of the permanent destruction of Babylon. Jer. 50:33-34 contrasts Jerusalem with Babylon which tells us that this passage is in reference to the literal city of Babylon, not a representative of Jerusalem. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts: ‘The children of Israel and the children of Judah were oppressed together: ……Their Redeemer is strong…..He shall thoroughly plead their cause, that He may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon”.
Having established that this passage is about the literal city of Babylon let us continue with verses 35, 39-40 and 46. “The sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon….”. “Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord ‘so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein”.
Though present day Babylon is small, there are inhabitants of Babylon today telling us that this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled. And it cannot be a prophecy concerning Jerusalem because Jerusalem will be inhabited in the millennium.
WHY IS IT A MYSTERY THAT BABYLON WILL REIGN OVER THE KINGS OF THE EARTH?
As mentioned above, the mystery concerning the woman of Rev. 17-18 was not which city She represented, but as the angel revealed the mystery in 17:18, “and the woman which thou sawest is the great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth”. Why would the fact that this great city would reign over the kings of the earth be a mystery, or a secret? For the answer to that question let us consider other mysteries that have been revealed.
We read in Matt. 13:10-16, “And the disciples came, and said unto Him. ‘Why speakest Thou unto them in parables?’ He answered and said unto them, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.…….Therefore speak I to them in parables; because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand…….But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear”.
My point is that these mysteries were not revealed to those who would not hear or see, but they were given to those who would hear and see. With that in mind, let us consider the importance of the fact that the woman represents a city that will reign over the kings of the earth.
As we saw in the section above, the end times will be characterized, in part, by counterfeits. The antichrist will try to pass himself off as the true Christ. That means that the antichrist will try to copy the things of God and of His Christ. One of those things is the millennial reign from Jerusalem in which Christ will reign over the kings of the earth. “Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion, I will declare the decree…..Ask of me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance. And the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps. 2:6-9).
In other words, as the antichrist will attempt to usurp the position of the true Christ as the ruler of the kings of the earth, he will attempt to make Babylon a counterfeit Jerusalem. In short, if those who live in the end times believe what some are teaching today, i.e. that Babylon is Jerusalem, then they will not be at all surprised to see the counterfeit Christ ruling from Babylon.
ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE THAT THE WOMAN OF REV. 17 WILL REPRESENT BABYLON
“Mother of Harlots”
Let us consider the phrase which, in part, describes the woman who represents “Babylon the great”. The word “mother” implies of course, that Babylon is the birthplace of harlots. And the word “harlots” often refers to idol worship in the Bible. Let us establish the Scriptural use of the word “harlots” first, and then we will allow Scriptures to tell us the birthplace.
The Hebrew word most often translated “harlots” is “zahnah” and is also often translated “whore” or “whoredom” . It is often used literally as in the first occurrence which is found in Gen. 34:31 which reads, “And he said, shall we deal with our sister as with an harlot?”. But the word is also used figuratively for idol worshipers. We read in Ex. 34:14-16, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God; Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; and thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods”.
Having established the fact that the Bible uses the word “harlot” to indicate the worship of false gods, we are now ready to determine from Scripture which city might be the “mother of harlots”. Because Rev. 17 describes Babylon of the end times as the “mother of harlots” let us trace the history of that city.
We read in Gen. 10:8-12 of Nimrod and Babel. “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, ‘Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel….”. The note in the Companion Bible tells us that “Nimrod” means “to rebel. 1st person pl., Jussive, ‘We will rebel’, or, ‘Come, let us rebel'”. So Nimrod, whose name means “to rebel” was the founder of Babel, which was, of course, the beginning of the Babylonian kingdom. Genesis chapter 11 describes the tower that was built in Babel. The Lord was not pleased and scattered the builders of that tower. So that we don’t get too far off track in discussing why God did that, suffice it to say for the moment that Nimrod and his city, Babel, were not friends of God.
Given that Babel, i.e. Babylon, existed and turned against God before the call of Abraham, I believe we must conclude that it was Babylon, not Jerusalem that was the “mother” of harlots.
WHICH CITY WILL BE THE SEAT OF THE ANTICHRIST’S GOVERNMENT?
Given that we are specifically told that Babylon of the end times is the “Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth”, I think we may conclude that Babylon is the seat of the antichrist’s government. But many point to passages that seem to say that Jerusalem is the antichrist’s seat of government. We will discuss those verses, but before we do I would like to comment on the suggestion that the antichrist will come from Jerusalem. The paper on this web-site Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: The Greek Antichrist will prove from Scripture that the antichrist will come from Greece, not from Jerusalem.
We come now to those Scriptures which have been suggested to prove that the antichrist will rule from Jerusalem.
Dan. 11:41, “He shall enter also into the glorious land and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon”. First of all, we are told that the antichrist shall “enter” the “glorious land”, i.e. Israel. But note the phrase “enter also. That tell us that he will evidently enter other countries as well. This verse also tells us that some countries will “escape out of his hand“. Surely, if they will “escape of out his hand” he will have entered their countries to wage war against them. In other words, this verse does not tell us that the antichrist’s seat of government will be in Israel, only that he will enter it, just as he will enter other countries, i.e. to make war.
Dan. 11:45, “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain….”. The Hebrew word translated “tabernacles” is “ohel” and is always translated “tent” or “tabernacle”. The point is that a tent is certainly not a permanent structure. Also, we are told that it will be planted “between the seas in the glorious holy mountain”. The note in the Companion Bible defines that place as “between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea”. My point is that the antichrist’s tent will not be in Jerusalem. I would think that if his seat of power was Jerusalem, that city would have been a more strategic place than a tent placed between Jerusalem and the sea.
Is. 25:7, “And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations”. In order to correctly understand this verse we must understand the phrases “covering cast over all people”, and “the vail that is spread over all nations”? If we consider the next verse I believe we will have our correct understanding. “He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth….”. The covering and the vail referred to here is death that will be swallowed up in victory. This is not the destruction of Jerusalem or any other city in the day of the Lord, it is the destruction of death after the millennium.
Is. 28:14-15, “Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men that rule this People which is in Jerusalem. Because ye have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves”. Who are these “scornful men that rule”? The context will help us answer that question. We read in verse 7, “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink……”Verses 9-13 speak of teaching precept upon precept and line upon line. Teaching was what the “priests and the prophets” did. Certainly this does not fit the antichrist. I believe therefore that the “scornful men” of this particular passage that ruled the People of Jerusalem was not the antichrist, but the priests and prophets who let down God and the people of God that they had been chosen to serve.
Jer. 51:11, “Make bright the arrows; gather the shields: the Lord hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for His device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance of His temple”. Note that it was the kings of the Medes who destroyed Babylon. That was prophesied in Dan. 5: and fulfilled when the Medes and the Persians conquored Babylon in Old Testament times. So this prophecy is not an end time prophecy.
THE SEVEN HILLS OF REV. 17:10
We read in Rev. 17:7, “And the angel said unto me, ‘…..I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns'”. Verse 10 is part of the explanation of the beast that carries the woman. Verse 10 reads, “And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space”.
The word “there” in the phrase “ there are seven kings” is not in the Greek manuscripts. The Companion Bible note on that word suggests that it could be “they”, i.e. “they (the seven mountains) are seven kings”. Given that this verse is the explanation of the beast, I believe that the note in the Companion Bible is correct. So the seven mountains represent seven kings. Therefore, the argument that centers on the fact that Jerusalem is surrounded by seven mountains is, in my opinion, not on solid ground.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org