Mystery Babylon the Great - Revelation 17

          The next two chapters of Revelation give us some very important information regarding Mystery Babylon the Great. Mystery Babylon the Great, as we will see in this vision, is a key player in the events of the last days. In the next two chapters we will examine the characteristics which describe the woman called Mystery Babylon the Great. Because of the key role she plays in the world and her relationship to the fourth beast kingdom, it will be critical that we be able to identify her. Let’s see how she is described.

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries." Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 17:1-7).

Here, we observe what appears to be a very wealthy and powerful city-state or nation who is identified as “the prostitute,” “the woman” and “Mystery Babylon the Great.” In verse one she is observed sitting on the many waters.

Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. (Revelation 17:15).

From this we learn that Mystery Babylon in some way dominates the peoples, multitudes, nations and languages of the world. The expressions in this passage “sits on” and “sitting on” signify a position of dominance or influence. We are not told if this position of dominance is economic, military or political in nature. However, it is probably all three.

The beast on which she is sitting is the fourth beast kingdom that is described in Daniel’s prophecies. Daniel prophesied about this beast kingdom and how it came to have seven heads and ten horns. He also revealed that the Antichrist would rise to world dominance from this kingdom. Here is how it was explained to Daniel.

The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings (Daniel 7:24).

When Daniel received the explanation of his vision he was told the fourth beast kingdom would begin with ten kings or rulers. Then another king would arise from among them and overcome three of the original kings, leaving the fourth beast kingdom with seven heads. So, from that time the fourth beast kingdom will have seven heads and ten horns. Therefore, the beast referred to, in Revelation 17, is the fourth beast kingdom which Daniel saw in his vision. It is out of this fourth beast kingdom that the Antichrist will rise to world dominance.

Therefore, as we watch the picture develop in Revelation 17, we first see that “Mystery Babylon the Great” dominates the whole world. This superpower influences the world through its military, economic and political strength. However, “Mystery Babylon the Great” will ultimately be destroyed by what appears to be a conspiracy of the fourth beast kingdom. Let’s see how John describes this,

The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:16-18).

          John is saying that the Antichrist and his kingdom, with its seven heads and ten horns will hate Mystery Babylon. This is an incredible prophecy of how the Antichrist and his fourth beast kingdom will destroy Mystery Babylon and then dominate the entire earth. The seven heads and ten horns will be unified in their purpose and they will give their power to the Antichrist. The Antichrist will use his power to destroy Mystery Babylon the Great by fire. We will learn more of this destruction by fire when we read Revelation 18.

The vision that John had of the fourth beast kingdom destroying Mystery Babylon the Great appears to be similar to another prophecy which Daniel wrote. Let’s read this passage to see how this comes about.

The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price (Daniel 11:36-39).

When we compare John’s and Daniel’s prophecies we come away with a picture of how this fourth kingdom develops and the Antichrist comes to power. Daniel writes that the king - the Antichrist - will successfully “attack the mightiest fortresses” with foreign help. Apparently, the Antichrist will also receive outside help in his conspiracy to destroy “Mystery Babylon the Great”.

Christians and Bible students over the centuries have tried to determine the identity of “Mystery Babylon the Great”. Let’s first review the characteristics we find in chapter 17 before we move on to chapter 18.

Characteristics of “Mystery Babylon the Great”:

1.     She sits on peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.

2.     The world is intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.

3.     She sits on the beast that has seven heads and ten horns.

4.     She was drunk with the blood of the saints.

5.     John was greatly astonished when he saw her.

6.     The beast and the ten horns will hate her.

7.     The beast will bring her to ruin and burn her with fire.

8.     She is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.

As with all biblical prophecy, each of these characteristics will be fulfilled by “Mystery Babylon the Great”. If we put all of these characteristics together here is the picture that seems to appear. “Mystery Babylon the Great” is a great city, probably part of a very powerful nation. She has power and influence over the peoples of the world and also the fourth beast kingdom of the Antichrist. The whole world desires what she has which could be her way of life, her wealth and her power. In some way she is responsible for the death of people who would be considered the saints of God. She is probably a country who professes a faith in the true God but she has committed adultery by being unfaithful to the God she professes. The Antichrist and the fourth beast kingdom will hate her and destroy her with fire. With this in mind let’s read Revelation 18 to see what else we can learn about this last days superpower.

Mystery Babylon the Great - Revelation 18

In this chapter John provides a rich and descriptive picture of “Mystery Babylon the Great”. With the amount of detail provided we should have little difficulty identifying “Mystery Babylon the Great” when she appears on the world scene. Once again let’s look at the characteristics which are attributed to her.

For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries." … Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself (Revelation 18:3, 7).

The two of her main characteristics are her adulterous behavior and her excessive consumption. John actually lists many of the things she buys when describing her excessive consumption. Apparently, she consumes much of what the world produces because the “merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” “Mystery Babylon the Great” apparently is a nation on the sea or surrounded by the sea because she receives what she consumes by sea, for we are told that “every sea captain, …who earn their living from the sea,” will weep and mourn when “Mystery Babylon is destroyed”.

Once again, the references to “her adulteries” may indicate that she is a country that proclaims a faith in the true God but has not remained faithful. In Scripture, God referred to Israel’s unfaithfulness in terms of adultery when she, who knew the one true God, abandoned Him for false gods and other forms of idolatry. Let’s observe how God referred to Israel in this prophecy from Jeremiah.

I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries (Jeremiah 3:8).

Therefore, “Mystery Babylon the Great” is a rich superpower that professes a faith in the true God but is really full of unbelief and disobedience. Again, John reveals that the final outcome of this wealthy superpower is destruction by fire in one day and one hour. Her destruction is both swift and complete.

Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. ... In one hour your doom has come! … When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, 'Was there ever a city like this great city (Revelation 18:8, 10 and 18)?

The destruction of “Mystery Babylon the Great” will apparently pave the way for the Antichrist and his fourth beast kingdom to rise to world dominance. “Mystery Babylon the Great,” who had dominated the world and the fourth beast kingdom, will be defeated never to rise again. When “Mystery Babylon the Great” is out of the way the fourth beast kingdom and the Antichrist will be elevated to the position of superpower and world dominance, a position they will maintain until the end.

When the Antichrist and his kingdom destroy “Mystery Babylon the Great”, the world will certainly say, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?"

Additional insights into Mystery Babylon may be gained by comparing the description of Mystery Babylon provided in Jeremiah 50 and 51 and Isaiah 47.

Richard H Perry