2022-07-27
Purgatory
Pixabay

Babylon the Great, commonly known as the Whore of Babylon, refers to a symbolic female figure and place of evil mentioned in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Her full title is stated in Revelation 17 as “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth.” We may have a familiarity with the term Babylon.

This Old Testament kingdom had taken over Israel and taken many of its inhabitants captive in 586 BC. Nevertheless, this kingdom fell to the Medo-Persians in the Old Testament, never to be heard of again. So why do we see the term Babylon showing up in Revelation? And who, or what, exactly is the whore of Babylon? As Revelation has a great deal of symbolism, perhaps this refers to something rather than someone.

The Whore of Babylon in the Bible

The Whore of Babylon is primarily mentioned in chapter 17 of Revelation. Revelation 17:1-2 tells us, “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.”

Revelation 17:3 gives this description: “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 beast mentioned in this verse is the same as in Revelation chapter 13:1, “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.” The beast in Revelation chapter 13 is understood to refer to the Antichrist, the man of lawlessness. So, whoever it is, the whore of Babylon is closely affiliated with the end-times Antichrist.

The fact that the whore of Babylon is referred to as a mystery means that we cannot be entirely sure as to her identity. The passage does give us some clues, however. Revelation 17:9 explains, “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.”

Many commentators link this passage with the Roman Catholic Church because, in ancient times, Rome was known as “the city on seven hills” because there were seven prominent hills surrounding the city. However, verse 10 explains that the seven hills represent seven kings or kingdoms, five of which have fallen, one that is, and one that is to come. Therefore, the “whore of Babylon” cannot refer exclusively to Rome.

Revelation 17:15 tells us, “Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.’” The whore of Babylon will have significant worldwide influence over people and nations. Verses 10-14 describe a series of eight and then ten kings who affiliate with the beast. The whore of Babylon will have control over these kings. However, the kings will turn on her and destroy her at some point.

The Meaning of the Whore of Babylon

Theologians argue about a great deal of the content found within Revelation. Still, they seem to follow the same line of thinking that Babylon can represent paganism or hedonism in the modern-day. In the Book of Revelation, these themes culminate in the image of the whore of Babylon. As a result of this biblical imagery, Babylon has transcended its historical significance to become synonymous with sin and pride in Western art and literature.

In the Old Testament times, Babylon represented the pinnacle of sin. Imagine what the Israelite captives felt as they marched down the streets of Babylon and through the Ishtar Gate. Although the physical kingdom of Babylon has ceased, it lives on in a figurative sense in the end times.

Some theologians have suggested that perhaps this also represents Rome. According to Matthew Henry, “Rome appears to be meant in this chapter. Pagan Rome subdued and ruled with military power, not by art and flatteries.”

Depending on if a believer believes in typology, one could assert that the whore of Babylon could represent both Rome and our modern world. After all, we see archetypes throughout the Old Testament that point to Jesus, such as Melchizedek. The same could apply to elements we see in Revelation. No matter what the case, the whore of Babylon represents everything corrupt, sinful, and that strays away from God.

Characteristics of the Whore of Babylon

To disect the mother of prostitutes, we need to analyze the chapter of Revelation 17 verse by verse to break down the distinguishing attributes of the whore of Babylon. Revelation 17:1: “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters.”

This means that the whore of Babylon has a broad reach. We don’t just restrict Babylon to one kingdom that existed in the Old Testament times in the Middle East. It permeates many places and cultures.

Revelations 17:2: “With her, the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”The ideologies of Babylon sway leaders. They give up the ways of the righteous and follow after evil and all acts of sinfulness. As we witness in the Old Testament, when a nation’s leader falls prey to this, the whole country does so as well.

Revelation 17:3: “There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.” We previously see this beast in Daniel’s visions. Both the whore of Babylon and the Beast play a massive role in the End Times. Revelation 17:4: “The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls.” Purple and all these other elements show royalty, power, and wealth. The whore of Babylon influences culture and people.

Revelation 17:4: “She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.” The Bible has often alluded to the cup of God’s wrath being poured out. She drinks the cup of sinfulness and adultery without caring about the world, without remorse. And yet, the same cup she drinks will lead to her judgment. God’s wrath does not stay forever.

The Significance of the Whore of Babylon

Many of the characteristics of the whore of Babylon sound familiar in our culture today. We need to know as much as we can about the events to come and the signs that precede them. We should also distinguish that many people have a different interpretation of Revelation.

Some believe the events have already occurred, some believe we’re in the middle of them, and some think we’ve yet to enter the tribulations set forth at the End of Days. No matter what the case, be sure to turn to the words of Scripture and remain vigilant so that we as believers do not stumble when it comes to the devil’s schemes and the allure of Babylon.

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