Some popular teachers assert that Mystery Babylon is metaphorical; in other words, it is not an actual city but symbolic of something else, possibly a worldwide pagan religious/financial system. They say this despite the fact that in Revelation 17:18, the angel, while interpreting John’s vision, refers to the “woman” as a “city”: “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (emphasis added).
Mystery Babylon is referred to as a “city” eight times in the book of Revelation, and many of the things that happen to it in the narrative seem to be talking about a literal city. For instance, the city is burned down and the smoke can be seen from the nearby sea; merchants sell items to it; and it experiences famine. These, plus many other factors we will soon see, cause many to believe that it is in fact a literal city, just as the angel said.
Those who see Mystery Babylon as a literal city have proposed several candidates for the identity of the city, including:
I believe Mystery Babylon is the last-days city of Jerusalem. I choose my words very carefully in this description. In other words, it’s not referring to any previous Jerusalem, or even to Jerusalem today; it is the Jerusalem of the end times, when the people of that city make the temporary mistake of accepting the Antichrist as Messiah and promote his worship to the rest of the world—the Jerusalem that becomes the capital city of the world under the Antichrist’s authority.
We know the Antichrist will choose Jerusalem as the place to declare himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Matthew 24:15; and Daniel 11:31–32). We know the greatest religious persecution of all time, prompted by the abomination of desolation, will happen in the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15–21) and the Antichrist seems to set up his headquarters in the city itself (Daniel 11:45). So, we already understand that there is a relationship between the Antichrist and the city of Jerusalem in the last days. We have also seen the Antichrist is attempting to fulfill Messianic prophecies, and we know the most important of those prophecies include setting up Jerusalem as the capital city of the world (Isaiah 2:1–4) as well as setting up a worldwide pilgrimage system enabling Gentiles to flow into Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:3–22; Isaiah 18:7; Zechariah 14:16–18). We will see that these things are taking place in Mystery Babylon, and we will look at what I believe are scriptural proofs that the term refers to the last-days Jerusalem.
Before we get into specifics, it will be helpful to go over some of the basics about what John saw in his vision about Mystery Babylon.
John saw a vision of a woman riding a seven-headed, ten-horned beast—the same beast seen earlier in Revelation 13, which is by this time an established reference to the Antichrist. As I mentioned, we are told specifically by an angelic interpreter in Revelation 17:18 that the woman is a city. So, the basic idea is that John saw a city riding the Antichrist. We know that the city is deceived because she says she has found her husband and her king (Revelation 18:7). She is extremely happy with the beast she is riding at first, but she finds later on, at the very end, that the beast turns on her and tries to destroy the city (Revelation 17:16–17).
We also know that the city is responsible for the promotion of the Antichrist’s worship to the rest of the world because of verses like Revelation 17:2b, which says:
“The inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (emphasis added).
Or, as Revelation 18:3 puts it, “For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her [fornication]” (ESV, emphasis added).
The idea is that Mystery Babylon herself is so deceived by the Antichrist that she is passionately worshiping him as her long-awaited king and husband. So intense is the passion of her fornication that the entire world is drawn in (made drunk) and deceived into doing this with her.
Now, a few biblical reasons to validate this theory.
The last verse of Revelation 18 makes a very impressive statement: “And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth” (verse 24). I submit that the only city this can apply to is Jerusalem. Let’s take each part separately to see why.
The idea that the blood of prophets was found in this city is interesting, because there is only one place that the prophets were ever killed in Scripture: Jerusalem. In fact, Jesus actually says that it is impossible for a prophet to be killed anywhere except Jerusalem!
“The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, ‘Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.’ And he said unto them, ‘Go ye, and tell that fox, behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.’” (Luke 13:31–33, emphasis added)
He reiterates this point in the next verse: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets” (Luke 13:34a).
That should end the discussion about which city is responsible for killing the prophets, but what do we make of the next part of the verse in Revelation 18:24, which says “the blood of all who were slain on the earth” is found in this city? You might think we need to go looking for somewhere other than Jerusalem to find a place responsible for all the blood of the slain, but Jesus actually said that Jerusalem would be blamed for all the righteous blood shed on the earth, not just for the people who were killed there.
“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” (Matthew 23:34–35, emphasis added)
No other city in Scripture is said to have this kind of blame put on it; therefore, passages like Revelation 18:24 about Mystery Babylon being blamed for the blood of the prophets, etc., must be intended to point directly to Jerusalem because we have explicit references from the Lord Himself about this very issue.
Consider the very idea of a city being a harlot: Jerusalem is specifically called a “harlot” several times in Scripture, and always in a spiritual context—the harlotry of following false gods and killing prophets. Just a small sampling of this can be found in Isaiah 1:21: “How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.”
Ezekiel 16 is devoted entirely to this subject. The chapter starts: “Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations.”
In fact, Ezekiel spends the whole chapter saying things like:
“But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.” (Ezekiel 16:15–16)
Mystery Babylon is called the “Mother of Harlots.” Some try to make this phrase more than the text makes of it. They see it requiring the city to be the source of all the world’s evil from time immemorial, but that is not what I believe the text is intending. I believe this is talking about Jerusalem, which is, at this point, committing the worst kind of adultery (because she, of all cities, should know better than to be worshipping a false god like the Antichrist). Also, a consistent idiom in Scripture conveys the idea that cities have children, which are often referred to as “daughters,” “sons,” or simply “children.” So “harlots,” as in “mother of harlots,” simply refers to Jerusalem’s inhabitants. One example of the use of this concept can be seen when Jesus was on the road to be crucified:
“But Jesus turning unto them said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.”’” (Luke 23:28–29, emphasis added)
Isaiah 4:4, when speaking of the institution of the millennial kingdom, says:
“When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.” (Isaiah 4:4, emphasis added)
Here is yet another example of the inhabitants of a city being referred to as “children” of that city:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37–38, emphasis added)
Jerusalem is constantly warned in Scripture that if it does not turn from its harlotries, it will be judged. As we go through Revelation 17–18, we find that the specific judgments Mystery Babylon gets are the exact same as those promised to Jerusalem because of its spiritual harlotry. Jerusalem is judged in the end times for the purpose of ending this harlotry as a means of purification, and it is clear that this happens just before the Millennium. The following is just one example from Ezekiel 43 where Ezekiel talks to God while looking at the millennial temple. God talks about the things that will happen just before the temple He is showing Ezekiel will be able to be built:
“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places, by setting their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them. They have defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. Now let them put away their whoring and the dead bodies of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in their midst forever.’” (Ezekiel 43:7–9, emphasis added)
The judgment of Jerusalem for the purpose of purification that occurs just before the Millennium is mentioned in several other places (Zechariah 14:1–5, 13:1–9; Revelation 16:18–21; Zephaniah 1:4–18).
Most people with differing theories about Mystery Babylon have to view the twenty-nine items in Revelation 18 sold to Mystery Babylon by merchants as symbolic (an allegory of economic wealth). This is because the items listed are kind of odd and don’t seem like things that any modern city would be purchasing in large quantities. But as I show in my book, each of the items brought to Mystery Babylon has some explicit use in the temple system, whether to do with offerings that are to be made at the temple or with building up the fake millennial Jerusalem. Why are the merchants getting so rich? Let’s look at some of examples, and I will show you.
The first items mentioned are “gold and silver, precious stones.” The only other place this exact phrase is used is in describing the specific offerings needed to worship the Antichrist’s god in Daniel 11: “But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things” (Daniel 11:38, emphasis added).
This can’t be a coincidence. We also know that the place where the Antichrist demands worship of both himself and the image of the beast is in the temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, we can easily conclude that the items needed to be brought by the people of the world to worship the image of the beast in Jerusalem are gold, silver and precious stones.
So, consider that the Antichrist has demanded worship, and the way he says to worship is by offering gold, silver, and precious stones. Can you even imagine what that would do to the cost of these items in the global economy? If the money changers and the people selling birds for sacrifice in the temple were bad, wait until they sell gold, silver, and precious stones to pilgrims. Like I said, this will make the merchants richer than anyone ever has been.
Another group of goods mentioned as being sold to Mystery Babylon in Revelation 18 includes cinnamon, incense, fragrant oil, and frankincense. Each of these words is extremely rare in the Bible, and they are only grouped together in one other context: They are the exact items God said to be used to make holy anointing oil to consecrate the temple and all the items in it. The oil was also to be used to anoint the priests and served an important role in temple services. The compound made from these items was so holy that God warned against anyone making it for any purpose except for temple services; those who did so would be “cut off.”
The next list of items in Revelation 18 is even more amazing: wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep. These are the specific items needed to start the so-called daily sacrifice, a twice-daily sacrifice described in Exodus 29. Daniel 11 and 12 state that this particular sacrifice will again be started in the end times.
So you can see that when we take this section seriously, all of these items are clues that point to one thing: the temple and its services in Jerusalem. In my book, I go through all twenty-nine items that are sold to Mystery Babylon in the last days. It’s amazing to see how each of them points to this conclusion.
Even the items worn by the woman/city are far from random: “Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet” (Revelation 18:16a, emphasis added). These are the specific colors to be worn by the high priest. This exact phrase is used dozens of times in Scripture. Even the idea that Mystery Babylon has a name written on her forehead is taken from the very same place where we find the description of the high priest’s attire in Exodus 28. The high priest had a name written on his forehead, too, but it read “Holiness to the Lord.” Mystery Babylon, on the other hand, has the name “Mother of Harlots” written on her forehead.
The idea is that the city of Jerusalem is being pictured as a harlot-high priest, promoting the Antichrist as if he were their true God, causing the whole world to worship the Antichrist in the same way a high priest should promote the worship of the true God.
Many people say that Mystery Babylon sits on “seven hills,” derived from their interpretation of Revelation 17:9–10:
“Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.” (Revelation 17:9–10)
Many people say that this city on seven “hills” is Rome, which is famous for its seven hills. But that doesn’t stop those who think Mystery Babylon is Mecca or even Jerusalem from claiming that their city also sits on seven hills. That all may be true, but the problem is this is not what the verse is talking about.
There are many ways to show the interpretation of this passage I am about to suggest is true: grammatically, contextually, logically, and by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Let’s start with grammar.
The key is the phrase “and there are seven kings.” The excerpt indicates how the passage reads in the KJV. Other versions render this with a very important distinction. They say that the seven heads of the beast are seven mountains; however, the angel then further defines these mountains as being “seven kings”: “They [the mountains] are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come” (ESV, emphasis added).
We can see the difference. The KJV gives the idea that the angel begins to talk about a totally separate thing when he talks about the seven kings, whereas the ESV defines the seven mountains as being seven kings.
The difference in translations here is not an issue with the Greek texts, like the Textus Receptus or the Critical Text. The Greek manuscripts say the same thing here, so it’s not one of those issues. This is simply a matter of translator choice.
There is near universal agreement among Bible translators that the seven mountains are, in fact, seven kings. In the following image, we see this is the way it is translated in almost every major English Bible.
Grammatically, a major reason for this is that the Greek word εἰ σ ιν (eisin), which in the KJV is translated as “there are,” is the third-person plural of ε ιμι (eimi), meaning “I am,” which should be rendered “they are.” When describing the ten horns a few verses later, a similar phrase occurs: deka basileis eisin. There, the KJV and NKJV translate the phrase correctly, without substituting “there” for “they,” as is done in verse 10.
I am not a Greek scholar, and I wouldn’t want anyone to believe me based solely on my grammatical explanation, so let’s move on to showing that the angel is indicating the seven mountains are seven kings by the context of the passage and by comparing Scripture with other Scripture.
I want to reiterate that all the other times in chapter 17 that the seven-headed beast with ten horns is mentioned, John seems to go out of his way to use phrases used back in Revelation 13. We know the beast in Revelation 13 has many of the same characteristics as the one in Revelation 17. They both have seven heads and ten horns; they both have names of blasphemy on their heads; they both are referred to by their having been killed yet living; they both have the earth dwellers “wonder” at them when they see their apparent resurrection; and they both have people whose names were not written in the Book of Life worship them. I know this seems obvious, but the view that the seven mountains are seven hills of a city prevents people from seeing the most basic point—the seven-headed, ten-horned beast in Revelation 17 is the same beast of Revelation 13, which is obviously the Antichrist.
Our passage goes on to say that one of these heads, which are kings, is the same king who “was and is not” (Revelation 13) and gets the mortal wound. Let’s flip back to Revelation 13:3 to check it out: “One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.”
We see here that one of the beast’s seven heads is said to have a mortal wound. This is an exact match with the Revelation 17 beast. Therefore, Revelation 17:9 has nothing to do with physical hills in Rome, Mecca, Jerusalem, or anywhere else. I mean, do you really think that one of the hills in Rome is going to be mortally wounded and then come back to life, or that everyone marvels at and begins to worship a hill? In other words, the woman/city is riding the Antichrist. This passage is not conveying the type of ground she is sitting on; she is the city, and she is riding the Antichrist, not hills.
One of the best arguments against the theory that Jerusalem is Mystery Babylon is rooted in the following verse:
“And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.’” (Revelation 18:21, emphasis added)
The argument here is that Jerusalem can’t be Mystery Babylon because this passage says it shall be found “no more at all” and we know Jerusalem is in existence during the millennial reign. We also see the so-called New Jerusalem in the eternal kingdom. This is a very good argument, and it requires a very good answer. How can I say, on the one hand, that Jerusalem will be destroyed and be “found no more” and, on the other hand, say that it will be around forever?
The answer lies in the last eight chapters of the book of Ezekiel, where we find one of the most intricate, detailed building plans for the Israel of the Millennium. Ezekiel contains chapters and chapters of technical details regarding how Israel will be divided, the new temple complex, and Jerusalem and its surrounding areas. To say this is different than what we currently see in Israel is a bit of an understatement.
There are those who have taken all the technical specifications of things like the division of the land in the millennial reign and plotted it all on a map. The twelve tribes of Israel are given parallel rectangular allotments of land, one on top of the other, from the north border of Israel to the south, and each tribe’s allotment extends along the entire east/west border of Israel. It really helps to see all this on a map to visualize what I’m saying.
In the middle of these allotments of land is a rectangular portion that Ezekiel calls the “holy portion.” The priests and Levites, who service the temple equally, divide this land. There is some debate as to where exactly the temple is in this section. Some say it is in the middle of this land and others say that it is just north of the city, but it doesn’t appear to actually be in the city itself, which is very different from Jerusalem now.