Apologetics

The Identity of Mystery Babylon

My question is about “Mystery Babylon”—“the great prostitute”—in Revelation 17. I notice similarities between Jerusalem and Mystery Babylon. Who is Mystery Babylon? Have the events concerning Mystery Babylon already taken place, or are they still future?

One of the seven angels with one of the seven bowls came and said, “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” (Rev. 17:1–2 NIV).

What is going on here is pretty interesting. When you read Scripture in light of Scripture, you recognize who is in view. Reading through the Old Testament, we see the prophets of God repeatedly speaking of the prostitution of Israel and the prostitution of Judah (cf. Exod. 34:11-16; Deut. 31:14-22; Jer. 3:1-10; Ezek. 16:1-59; 23:1-49; Hos. 1:1-2:13). The prostitution of the northern kingdom and the prostitution of the southern kingdom. In each case, the prophets use graphic language to depict Israel, who was called to be a light to the nations but instead prostituted herself with the nations.

When we get to Revelation, we recognize that Revelation is four-hundred-four verses with two-hundred-seventy-eight of those verses alluding to other parts of Scripture, primarily Old Testament passages. We should immediately think, the clue here is given to me by reading the other passages — Israel is in view here. Israel is the prostituted bride.

We have a grand metanarrative in Revelation—John’s version of the Olivet Discourse (cf. Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21)—in which we see a persecuted bride, the seven churches in the epicenter of a Caesar cult. There is also a prostituted bride. Some of the people in those churches, particularly those in Laodicea, were in bed with Rome, which is the Beast. The Roman Emperor wanted to be called “Savior and Lord” in place of Christ. You were supposed to say, “Caesar is Lord and King,” as opposed to saying, “Christ is Lord and King.” That answers the second part of your question. This is not about the twenty-first century. This is about what happened in the first century.

When you read Romans, you intuitively know that Paul is writing to Christians in a first-century epoch. The same thing is true with John in the Book of Revelation, his expanded Olivet Discourse. He is writing to seven churches — he says so in the introduction — seven churches in the epicenter of a Caesar cult and he is telling them to be faithful and fruitful. They are going to suffer for a short time, but their vindication will be an eternal vindication.

The Book of Revelation, then, was not written to us, but it was most certainly written for us. Just as there are prostitutes in Scripture, and Israel prostituted herself with the nations, so too there are those who act the part of prostitutes. They are not true to the Lord Jesus Christ. They give Him a kiss as did Judas, as opposed to saying with the thief on the cross, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following;

Who or What Is the Great Prostitute of Revelation 17? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Apocalypse When? Why Most End-time Teaching Is Dead Wrong (Hank Hanegraaff)

These bookstore resources are also recommended:

The Apocalypse Code (B1026) by Hank Hanegraaff

Revelation: Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (B793) by Steve Gregg

This blog is adapted from the October 9, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.