Babylon Personified

Babylon is personified with two images: 1) a great harlot and 2) a woman sitting on a scarlet beast and each image conveys different information about Babylon.

1. Babylon is personified as a great harlot who sits on many waters (Rev 17:1) with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality (Rev 17:2) and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality (Rev 17:2)

The angel provides an interpretation: "the waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues" (Rev 17:15).

In the Old Testament, a "harlot" was a term God used to refer to His people that were unfaithful to the Mosaic Covenant by worshiping other gods (Ex 34:14-16; Lev 20:4-6; Deut 31:15-17). Here Babylon is portrayed as something more than an individual non-Believer. It is "the great harlot" who leads others, including kings, to be immoral. It is a lifestyle that attracts all cultures and people and is intoxicating and pleasurable.

In the New Testament, the theological use of "harlot" is not found except here in the book of Revelation. With the New Testament focused on introducing the New Covenant, the theological emphasis moves from the unfaithful "harlot" of the Mosaic Covenant to the faithful "bride" of the New Covenant, and this is seen towards the end of this interlude:

and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. (Rev 18:23)

In a reference to the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1-13), the light of a lamp is symbolic of the faithful bride waiting for her bridegroom to fetch her for the wedding; it is the faithful Believer waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. But Babylon's lamp will not shine nor will she be able to hear the bridegroom coming.

2. Babylon is personified as a woman sitting on a scarlet beast (Rev 17:4) clothed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls (Rev 17:4), and having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of unclean things of her immorality (Rev 17:4). Written on her forehead, "Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots, and Of the Abominations of the Earth" (Rev 17:5), the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, blood of the witnesses of Jesus (Rev 17:5)

The angel provides an interpretation: "the woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth" (Rev 17:18). Another angel said: "she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality" (Rev 18:2-3)

What the angel describes figuratively as "Babylon," the apostle John described elsewhere in the words of Jesus as "the world."

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

When the apostle hears another voice from heaven (Rev 18:4), it is Jesus who is calling people to leave the sin of Babylon and come to faith. As Jesus continues to speak, the angel's personified descriptions become easier to understand. In short, Babylon represents the world, a secular culture that denies the existence of God and sin. In lieu of God and His imperative to be holy (Lev 20:26), a life in motivated by pride and power derived by human achievement.

To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, "I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning." (Rev 18:7)

And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, (Rev 18:9)

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more — cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives. (Rev 18:11-13)

This is an exerpt from: The Doom of Babylon.

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