BEFORE WE LEAVE THE GREAT TRIBULATION PERIOD, we need to look at another event that will be happening during this time or shortly afterwards, and that is the destruction of Babylon the Great! It still is unclear exactly when this occurs.
The following passage refers to “seven angels,” but these are not the angels with trumpets who are associated with the Great Tribulation as we read in the previous chapter. Rather, these are seven angels who appear after Jesus’ Second Coming. These are carrying seven bowls filled with the Plagues of the Wrath of God that they pour upon the Antichrist and his minions.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet Beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.
At the time of John, the great Babylonian Empire had been gone for over 500 years. In fact, the great city Babylon was an abandoned ruin. This Babylon that John was being shown was not the Babylonian Empire but was something far more sinister and enduring. Her identity, at least in John’s time, was a mystery!
But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? 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. The Beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the Beast that was, and is not, and yet is. Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. And the Beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.”
We covered these verses in Chapter 3 of this book, and you’ll remember that we concluded that this king that “has not yet come” is the Antichrist, who is both the seventh and the eighth heads and is ultimately headed for Hell. There has been much speculation around the rest of this passage. Some have suggested that the seven mountains represent the seven hills of ancient Rome, and hence by inference that Babylon is the Roman Catholic Church that is headquartered on one of those hills, the Vatican. But a close reading equates the seven mountains with seven kings and hence kingdoms. This Babylon comes riding on the back of the seven-headed Beast, on the back of the seven empires which you will remember are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Alexander’s, Rome, and finally the Antichrist’s. The Catholic Church wasn’t even around during the time of the first five empires, so the Catholic Church is not this Babylon.
Some have contended that this Babylon is the nation of Iraq, since the site of the ancient city of Babylon is in that country. However, Iraq has neither the power nor the decadence to resemble this great harlot. This harlot is Mystery Babylon. She is not that readily or easily identified.
The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the Beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the Beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.
These horns are the ten rulers and nations that unite with the Antichrist, and are the core of his empire, who even go so far as to make war against Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and do so by initially persecuting those who believe in Jesus, and finally try to take on Jesus Himself in the Battle of Armageddon. The angel tells John:
The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which you saw on the Beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the Beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
This great harlot sits on all the peoples of the world and rides these empires like a mistress, as though she were their owner. And indeed she is. What or who has pulled the strings and dominated every empire?—Those who controlled the financial and commercial interests. This can be summed up as materialism, defined in this case as the devotion to material wealth and possessions at the expense of spiritual or intellectual values. Isn’t a big, gaudy, decadent whore who throughout all ages oppresses all with her extravagances and abominations a fitting symbolism of the power of materialism?
But finally, the Beast itself has had enough of carrying this harlot through the centuries, and the ten horns on the last head, the Antichrist empire, turn on her with hatred and vengeance, leave her desolate and naked, and burn her with fire. But how will they do that? How do they attack a spiritual entity? Because she is not just a spiritual entity. The next verse goes on to explain: “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:18).
Materialism is at the core of the profit-driven system that dominates the economies and nations of today.
If we look around us, there is no single place today that epitomizes the devotion to material wealth and possessions more than the United States. And if there is any one great city of the USA that reigns over the kings of the earth, it is New York. If America was attacked and suffered some sort of nuclear conflagration, especially if her financial centers were incapacitated, the world’s capitalistic, materialistic system would be shattered. While the United States and New York are perhaps only the most apparent manifestations of the materialistic mistress that rules the empires of man, nevertheless their destruction could fulfill this vision of Babylon being destroyed in one hour. The 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers made everyone painfully aware just how fragile and vulnerable a city like New York is. Whatever the attack portrayed in this chapter, it sounds sudden and severe. John continues:
After these things I saw another angel coming down from Heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!”
verses confirm that Babylon is not just a spiritual entity but is also an actual place:
“For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
What nation is the choice marketplace of the earth where all other nations wish to sell their wares, and that has a trade deficit in the billions of dollars with many of them? That is billions flowing to these countries, and in particular to their merchants. There is one nation that clearly stands out above all others in this way: The United States of America.
And I heard another voice from Heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to Heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.”
The destruction is going to be sudden. Here it says in one day; later in the passage it says one hour. And what has America “rendered” or exported to the world that sows destruction and that she therefore reaps? Armaments! America is not the only country that sells weapons, but she has the lion’s share of the market. She sells many other things that could also be viewed as abominable by God. But weapons of war have caused such sorrow and pain and anguish and God would be justified to be furious. So much so that whatever torment and hell America’s military-industrial complex has meted out will now be repaid in like measure. If you have seen scenes of destruction and death that have resulted from war, then you know what horrors lie in wait for “Babylon the Great,” who “thinks herself a queen and knows no sorrow.”
God calls His people to come out of her, so that must mean that there are some and probably many in her. There are millions of Christians and other God-loving people in that country, but as Billy Graham and others have said, if God doesn’t judge America for her sins, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.” And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore. ... Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, “What is like this great city?” They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, “Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! 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!
Revelation 18:9–11, 17–20
So as the merchants and businessmen of other nations mourn their lost markets, and therefore their lost wealth, the angel tells all Heaven, the apostles and the prophets included, to rejoice, for they are avenged. The U.S. itself hasn’t persecuted all these. In fact, in many instances it has championed religious freedom and tolerance. It is not all Americans, or just America, being judged here. It is the anti-God, materialistic, soul-enslaving system that has existed down through the ages that at this time of destruction is now done away with forever. It is not just in America that “the Great Harlot” flourishes. It is a worldwide entity. But the USA could unfortunately be the final inheritor of all that Babylon—the wicked, materialistic, mammon-worshiping system that God pictures as a vain, decadent whore—has done since it started riding on the world’s empires.
John writes: “Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore’“ (Revelation 18:21). So when does this happen? Obviously the Antichrist and his ten kings are in power at this time, so it appears it happens during their reign, most likely after the covenant is broken. It is more than likely that it happens toward the end of the Tribulation or immediately afterward during the time that the plagues of wrath are being poured out. (See Chapter 10, “The Plagues of the Wrath of God.”) We’ve already covered how the Tribulation is not a peaceful time, and a reading of Daniel 11 shows that war seems to be the Antichrist’s stock in trade. The angel who showed John these things was also involved in pouring out the plagues of wrath, so that would seem to favor the destruction of Babylon occurring after the Second Coming. However, it also seems that at least some of God’s people are still in this Babylon, so that would place its destruction during the Tribulation. Guessing at the timing is just hypothesis for now.
- “He Shall Confirm a Covenant with Many”
- The Dragon
- The Beast
- The Abomination of Desolation, aka The Image of the Beast
- The Mark of The Beast
- The Great Tribulation
- Mystery Babylon!
- Jesus’ Second Coming
- The Marriage Supper of the Lamb and the Judgment Seat of Christ
- The Plagues of the Wrath of God