In The Revelation that Jesus gave to John, he says that he would be coming soon, to pour out his wrath on a great city that he calls “Babylon”. In this paper I will show you that this “Babylon” is a symbolic reference to Jerusalem as it existed prior to AD 70. Many observations and arguments support this assertion; but before listing some, let’s briefly consider two keys to understanding The Book of Revelation.
- First, it was written to seven churches that existed in AD 65 but do not exist today. Since it claims to be a revelation to the people in those churches, it seems reasonable to believe that the book had real meaning to the people to whom it is addressed.
- Second, since John repeatedly states that his Revelation pertains to events that “must soon take place,” it seems reasonable to believe that it deals with events that happened soon after it was written.
Even though it says that it deals with events that were about to happen 2,000 years ago, futurist, pseudo-prophets have used Revelation to develop an enormous mythology about the “last days” before the “end of the world.” To some of them, the great city of Revelation is Rome. That’s because they’ve decided that the Pope is the Antichrist. Others believe that the Antichrist will be a leader of the European Union or even the United States, so they say that the Babylon of Revelation is Brussels or New York City. But there is no mention of “the Antichrist” in the Book of Revelation and incredible though it may seem, there is no evil entity called “the Antichrist” anywhere in a properly translated Bible. Appendix 6 of Bamboozled Believers deals with the Antichrist myth; but that is not the subject of this essay. Here you will learn about the great city of Revelation.
Babylon the Great
Chapters 11 to 18 of Revelation describe terrible judgments that are to come upon a great city. Certainly chapter 11 is predicting the destruction of Jerusalem. We know this because the great city is the location of the “temple of god”, it is referred to as the “holy city” and it is the city that the gentiles would “trample for 42 months” (Rev.11:1, 2). This happened circa AD 70. Also in verse 8, it is the city where the “Lord was crucified.” Obviously the “great city” of chapter 11 is Jerusalem. John’s Revelation refers to Jerusalem symbolically as “Sodom and Egypt.” (Rev. 11:8) So perhaps John’s references to Babylon are also symbolic references to Jerusalem. Many features of Revelation support this hypothesis…
- In Chapter 16 we see that armies assemble at Armageddon before they destroy the “great city” (Rev. 16:16,19) Now, Armageddon is just a few miles away from Jerusalem. If Babylon is Rome or New York City, why would the armies be gathering near Jerusalem? This is strong evidence that the “great city” called “Babylon” in chapter 16 is actually Jerusalem.
- In Matt. 23:30-38 Jesus condemns Jerusalem for shedding the blood of prophets and saints and says that it will be destroyed during that generation. Babylon was “…drunk with the blood of the saints…” (Rev. 17:6) “In her was found the blood of prophets and saints and of all who have been slain on earth.” In Rev. 6:9 the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God ask “how long before you avenge our blood?” God tells them “rest a little longer…” Now, it just so happens that God avenged their blood shortly after Revelation was written by destroying Jerusalem. So again, it is clear that the “great city” being destroyed is Jerusalem. Not Rome, not New York City.
- In Revelation, Babylon is a city, but it is also portrayed as an adulterous woman… a harlot. It is called “the mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” (Rev. 17:5) Ancient Babylon was a wicked place, but by the time that John wrote Revelation, it was an inconsequential town. It certainly was no longer a “great city”. So we need to consider this question: Was there any other first century “great city” that could be accused of spiritual adultery? Anyone familiar with the Old Testament knows the answer to that question… over and over again God accused Jerusalem of whoredom. “See how the faithful city (Jerusalem) has become a harlot…” (Isa. 1:21) “ …you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved the harlot’s wages on every threshing floor.” (Hosea 9:1) Revelation describes how God would soon pour out his wrath on the harlot-city that He symbolically calls “Babylon”. Jerusalem was that harlot-city.
- The harlot is described as sitting on a “beast”. Surely this is a metaphoric way of describing the fact that the Jewish religious leaders derived their authority from the Roman “beast”. In John 19:15, the chief priests say: “We have no king but Caesar.” The beast had ten horns and seven heads. The ten horns were the ten Roman provinces and their governors. The seven heads were the Roman Caesars: Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero and Galba. Five had been, one was ruling (Nero) and one was yet to come and he would remain only a “little while”. Galba, the seventh emperor, ruled for only six months. The beast made war on the saints for 42 months and conquered them. This was the terrible tribulation that the first century believers endured at the hands of Nero. His attempt to exterminate them lasted for 42 months. The number of the beast was 666 and that is the value of Nero’s name in Greek. Some ancient Greek translations of Rev.13:18 change the number to 616 and that is the value of Nero’s name in Hebrew. These details of Revelation support the assertion that “the great city, Babylon” is first century Jerusalem. And there are many more similar details…
- Revelation 17:4 describes the attire of the harlot woman/city. She “was arrayed in scarlet and purple and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup.” This is very similar to the Jewish priests’ attire as described at length in Exodus 28.
- In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed during that first century generation and we know that in AD 70 his prophecy was fulfilled. In his discourse he listed many things that would happen first. Revelation refers to nine of them so it seems likely that Revelation describes the same event as the Olivet Discourse. (Here is a list taken from J. Balyeat’s book “Babylon: the Great City of Revelation”.)
- False christs and false prophets…Rev. 2:2, 16:13, 19:20, 20:10
- Many wars… Rev. 6:1-4,13:, 12:7, 16:16
- Earthquakes… Rev. 6:12, 8:5,11:13, 11:19, 16:18
- Famine… Rev. 6:5-8, 18:8
- Plagues… Rev. 6:7-8
- Saints persecuted… Rev. 2:10, 6:9-11, 12:17, 13:7
- Great apostasy… Rev. 2:2,6,9,14,15,20, 3:1,16, 12:9, 16:13
- Increasing wickedness… Rev. 18:2,4,5
- Developing factions… Rev. 6:3,4, 16:19
There are many more parallels with the Olivet Discourse… here are a few phrases that are found in both: coming soon, coming with clouds, every eye to see him, great tribulation, trumpet blast, instruction to flee the city and as mentioned earlier, the judgment of the dead.
- Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is described as God’s wife. But in the New Testament the church is the “bride of Christ”. Is God a bigamist? Surely not! In Jeremiah 3:8-14 God gives Israel (the northern ten tribes) a bill of divorcement. And He goes on to say that “faithless Israel was more righteous than treacherous Judah.” In Revelation 21:1,2 we see a “New Jerusalem coming down as bride, adorned for her husband” But where is old Jerusalem? Old Jerusalem (Judah) had murdered its husband (Jesus/God) and was deserving of death. That death came when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. That death was both literal and figurative. Literal, in that most of the people were killed and figurative in that the sacrificial religious system ended; and it ended in such a way that it could never be revived. Old Jerusalem was justly executed. Jesus was then free to take as his bride, the New Jerusalem. The old Jerusalem/Babylon had to be destroyed.
- The analysis in #7 above is supported by Revelation 18. In verse 7 the harlot/city says its heart “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.” But that was not true. She was a widow who had murdered her husband. Verse 8 is God’s response; He says: “For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, she will be burned with fire, for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”
- Over and over Revelation speaks of Babylon’s judgment. A judgment that coincides with Jesus’ coming. Three times in the last fifteen verses Jesus says: “I am coming soon.” “I am coming soon.” “I am coming soon.” Now, it just so happens that, in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus told his disciples that he would be coming to destroy Jerusalem and he that he would be coming “before that generation passed away.” About thirty-five years later, when he gave his revelation to John, it certainly was appropriate to say: “I am coming soon.” “I am coming soon.” “I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7,12 and 20). It was appropriate because he did come “soon.” He came in judgment on apostate Jerusalem in AD 70. This is a powerful argument that “Babylon” is used symbolically in Revelation to refer to Jerusalem. What other spiritually adulterous city was destroyed soon after The Book of Revelation was written?
- In Rev. 11:18, we see that the catastrophe that befalls Jerusalem happens at the time that the dead are to be judged. Subsequent chapters deal with the fall of the “great city” Then, in chapter 20, we are given more information about this judgment of the dead. At least two other Scripture passages identify the judgment of the dead as a first century event. (Dan. 12 and Matt. 24, 25) So why not accept the fact that the “Babylon” that is about to be destroyed in Revelation, is first century Jerusalem?
- As a young man, Josephus was a leader of the Jewish forces. Early in the war with Rome, he was captured. He switched sides and found favor with the Roman Emperor, Vespasian. Since he served on both sides in the war, he was very well qualified to describe what he had seen. Many things that are mentioned in Revelation are explained by Josephus. Here are two examples:
- 16:19 says: “the great city was split into three parts.” According to Josephus, most casualties were caused by the fighting between three Jewish factions inside of the city. The great city was indeed “split in three parts.”
- 16:21 says: “great hail stones, about a hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on the people.” Josephus tells us that Roman catapults launched hundred-pound stones that fell from heaven on the city. Why assume that Rome or New York must endure a spectacular hailstorm and be split into three parts? These things happened to Babylon/Jerusalem in AD 70.
Dozens of texts, chapters, parables and even one entire book indicate that Jesus’ second coming would happen in the first century. The eager anticipation of this propitious event is a recurring theme of the New Testament, yet somehow, modern-day Christians, who are supposedly “in the Word”, do not know that simple fact. Why can’t we accept Jesus’ repeated, clear assertions that the revelation that he gave to John deals with events that were about to happen? That naturally would mean that “Babylon” is a symbolic reference to Jerusalem.
In this little paper, you see that the Book of Revelation predicts the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Many times the book states that it predicts events that were “about to happen” 2,000 years ago. Yet today, our pseudo-prophets ignore those time statements and invent fantastical end-of-the-world prophecies about Babylon and the Antichrist. But “Babylon” is a figurative reference to Jerusalem and there is no mention of the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation. In fact, there is no reference to “the Antichrist” in the King James Version of the Bible. Some modern translations cater to our end-times delusions by using the phrase “the Antichrist” but our Antichrist boogieman is a fantasy.
Appendix 6 of Bamboozled Believers exposes the Antichrist myth. I hope that you will read the book.
In the last few verses of the Bible God directs some words at our pseudo-prophets. They “take away” the time statements in Revelation and they “add” their end-of-the-world, Babylon/antichrist fantasies “to the words of the book”…
“ I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
 Rev. 1:1,3, Rev. 3:11, Rev. 22:6,7,10,12,20)
 You can also learn more about the antichrist myth by reading the essay titled “The Sign of the Antichrist.”