Revelation pt. 4 – Babylon the Great

“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” (Rev. 11:8). 

I flinched, it was like some thrown a bucket of ice water over me and I froze. I looked down in the Bible and read the verse again … «Yes, it is actually there,» I said to myself. I turn the pages frantically until I find a confirmation. «Yes, there it says …» “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” The Holly Spirit shaken me vigorously and it was as if you had thrown rocks at the kitchen window and freezes when the window shatters and you realize you’ve done something wrong.

I guess I can not count how many times I have read this verse before, and for that matter the entire book of Revelation, but it was as if the word came to life and a deeper truth snuck up the spine. I’ve been an advocate and speaker for the teaching that goes on to bless Israel as a state according to Abrahams promises, etc. I have taught and supported the “millennial”-teaching with big words, I have translated simple Norwegian books about end-time into english eBooks and I was just in the middle of creating a Power Point presentation on Daniel’s 70 weeks when God comes and hammer his fist on the table, and in a way saying, “This is the truth!”.

It went a shudder over me and with big eyes I looked up at my wife, who is my witness, and I said, «It may not be possible …!?». She had seen my reaction and realized that something happened. – «What, then, … is there something wrong?» She asked. According to her face expression, she was probably not sure if everything was ok. I explained to her what happened and I showed her, that according to the Bible and Revelation is Jerusalem called Babylon, the great city and the harlot!

I did not realize what will happen, but I realized that a change was to come and that all the work I had done before on this topic, is going to change, to start all over again on the question of the end-time issue. I almost did not dare to think the thought, in fear of God’s punishment, when I now read and understand that Jerusalem is the harlot in the book of Revelation … and what will my allies say? … But I knew it was true.

My previous post was probably the first time I mention Jerusalem as the harlot, but I will present more material for you and look at the character who can be linked to Jerusalem / Israel. Harlot appears in Revelation. 17:5 as “Babylon the Great” and she is repeatedly described as “the great city” as we read in Rev. 16:9, 5:18 p.m.; 18:10, 16, 18, 21 It is especially Rev. 17:18 who proved to me on that day at the kitchen table, that Israel was the big city and the harlot.

We can not fail to see, certainly not I, that “The Big City” is linked to “where also our Lord was crucified” which is Jerusalem. (Rev. 11:8). Jerusalem was known as a great and a admirable city, example by Psalm. 48:1-2, Lam. 1:1 and Jer. 22:8 who also has a picture of a widow that John uses in his presentation of the harlot in Rev. 18:7.

I’ve used a some historical writings in my pervious blogpost to show what history writes about what we find in the Bible. Both, Tacitus and Josephus mention that the world in that time saw Jerusalem as a famous city. They also write about the last days of the city:

“As I am about to relate the last days of a famous city, it seems appropriate to throw some light on its origin.” (Hist. 5:2, Tacitus). 

This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.” (War. 7:1:1, Josephus). 

The big city, or the harlot was also filled with blood, Rev. 16:6; 18:24, and Rev. 17:6 says:

“And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” (Rev. 17:6). 

This blood that the harlot is filled with is the blood of the saints, and we find this in the Gospels where Jesus also say that this blood was required of them, “this generation”. We read:

“That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.” (Luk. 11:50-51). 

“This generation” is not our generation or a generation in the future. But it was the generation that Jesus spoke to, so the timeframe is also consistent with the Revelation time. You can read more about the time frame in “Eschatology in the Bible 1: The time frame of the crowd in Matthew 24” and the other parts of Eschatology in the Bible.

Confirmation of the Jewish persecution and killing of the prophets will we find several places in the NT: Matt. 23:29-37; Luke. 6:23-26; 11:47-50; 13:34; Rom. 11:3; 1 Thess. 2:15 and Heb. 11:32-38. The persecution and killing of Christians likewise, and a taste of it is already given in Acts. 8:1. Read Acts. 22:4-5 and the chapters 4-14 and 17-26 for your own study. Yes there are a lot of reading, but persecution and tribulation for Christians was also great.

We will now look at how the harlot is dressed, and John actually comes with a couple of explanations for her robe to give us a recognizable image of the right grade.

“And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:” (rev. 17:4). 

“And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!” (Rev. 18:16). 

We shall see that the harlot’s colors and jewels are not made out of nothing, but we find it in Exo. 28:4-5, 8-9, as a covenant garment for the high priest, a status of a royal priesthood. The High Priest decor matches also the tabernacle, which is the precursor to the temple. You can see a picture of the high priest’s robe in my blog post about “The Inner Decoration”.

“Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them.” (Ex. 26:1).  

The altar they had in the temple, which received blood from the sacrifice, were in gold, like the gold cup in the harlot’s hand. Both filled with blood.

“And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house: also the whole altar that was by the oracle he overlaid with gold.” (1.King. 6:22). 

And if you not have seen it, we find her headgear as well. In the Old Testament it is described as the high priest’s headdress. We bring Rev. 17:5 also for comparison.

“And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. /…And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.” (Ex. 28:36, 38). 

“And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Rev. 17:5). 

What shows up on the high priest’s forehead, John sees it as a counterpart on the harlots forehead, and see what the holy city, the temple of God and the priesthood has become.

But why call her Babylon? Why change the name from Jerusalem to Babylon? Names in the Bible is important and the name was applied as an authority over the person or a thing, and defines its character or function. Adam name his wife, Adama, to show her her role as his helper in carrying children. Jacob means “supplanter, deceiver” and was his character. But we also see that they changed the name in spiritual crisis or renewal. Jacob became Israel (God perseveres, contends), after he had wrestle with God and got the blessing. His father changed the name from Abram to Abraham (from “high father” to “father of many”) when God made a covenant with him (1.Mos. 17:5) and Simon was changed to Peter (from “to hear”, “to be heard”; to “rock”) when he realized through the Holly Spirit that Jesus was the son of the living God (Matt. 16:16-18).

Even the redeemed saints got new names, “… and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” (Rev. 3:12).

Jerusalem means “City of Peace, wholeness,” but John never put the name of the historical Jerusalem in Revelation, only on the “New Jerusalem”. He calls the historic Jerusalem for Babylon, which is a kind of prophetic judgment speech. Isaiah calls the people of Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10), Jeremiah makes the same (Jeremiah 23:14), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:46, 48, 53, 55).

The historical Babylon destroyed the First Temple in 586 BC (2.Kings. 25:8-8; 2.Chron. 36:17-20; Ezra. 5:12, Jer. 52:13), and now is Jerusalem herself even compared to Babylon as a temple destroyer, that caused the final destruction of the house of God.

What do you think?

Bible Verses are from KJV (King James Vesion)
War = War of the Jews, Flavius Josephus.
Hist. = History, Cornelius Tacitus.  

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