Babylon the Great always exists and symbolizes a timeless principle.

Purpose

This is an article in the series on the identity of “Babylon the Great” (Revelation 17:5). The purpose of the current article is to explain the relationship between Babylon and the evil characters in Revelation 13, namely the dragon, the beast from the sea, the false prophet, and the image of the beast. 

Summary

Babylon sits on a scarlet beast (Rev 17:3). In other words, she is distinct from this beast. The scarlet beast symbolizes the rulers of this world. That she sits on them means that she “reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18).

Babylon is part of the beast.

In Revelation 13, four entities persecute God’s people:

(1) The dragon,
(2) The beast from the sea,
(3) The beast from the earth, and
(4) The image of the beast (Rev 13:1-2, 11, 14).

Babylon is not mentioned at all in Revelation 13, but she must be part of these four entities because:

      • While they persecute God’s people, Babylon is guilty of their blood (Rev 18:24).
      • The three angels (Rev 14:6-11) bring their warning messages during the crisis of Revelation 13 but they announce that Babylon is fallen (Rev 14:8).
      • In the plagues, the dragon, the sea beast, and the false prophet gather together the kings of the world (Rev 16:13-14), but then Babylon is punished (Rev 16:19).

How do they relate?

The question is, how does Babylon relate to the four entities above?

Each of the four entities described in Revelation 13 is a specific organization that exists for a specific period:

      • The dragon (Rev 12:3) is the Roman Empire.
      • The sea beast is the church of the Middle Ages.
      • The false prophet comes into existence when it comes out of the earth and the image of the beast comes into existence when the people of the world create it (Rev 13:11, 14).

In contrast, as indicated by the following, Babylon and her beast always exist:

      • She is guilty of the deaths of all of God’s people (Rev 18:24).
      • She is the “mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (Rev 17:5).
      • She sits on all seven heads of the beast (Rev 17:9), and these heads symbolize seven ages from the time of the prophet Daniel in the 6th century BC to the return of Christ.

That Babylon sits on the scarlet beast (Rev 17:3) is explained as that: “The woman … reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18). Since Babylon and her beast always exist, this is A TIMELESS PRINCIPLE. The dragon, the beast, the false prophet and the image of the beast are specific instances of the Babylonian principle:

For example, the beast from the sea has been identified as the church of the Middle Ages. But Revelation 17 reveals that that beast consisted of two parts: The kings of the earth and false Christianity (the harlot) which dominated them, using them to silence her opponents.

The other articles in this series identify Babylon as false religion. The vision of Babylon sitting on the beast, therefore, symbolizes how religion has always dominated the civil authorities so that she could force people to accept her doctrines.

– END OF SUMMARY –

The Scarlet Beast

After Babylon was briefly mentioned in Rev 14:8 and 16:19, she is described in much more detail in Revelation 17 and 18. In Revelation 17, she sits on a scarlet beast (Rev 17:3) and is eventually destroyed by that beast (Rev 17:16). In other words, she is distinct from the scarlet beast.

The scarlet beast has seven heads and ten horns (Rev 17:3). Both the heads and the horns are explained as rulers of nations and empires (Rev 17:9-10, 12). In other words, the beast symbolizes the rulers of this world and that she sits on them is explained as that she “reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18). (For the identity of the beast and its heads, see the articles on the beast or on the seven heads.)

Revelation 13

In Revelation 13, four entities persecute God’s people (Rev 13:1-2, 11, 14):

(1) The dragon,
(2) The beast from the sea (often simply called “the beast” (e.g., Rev 19:19),
(3) The beast from the earth (also called the false prophet – Rev 16:13; 19:20), and
(4) The image of the beast.

These entities work together and relate to each other:

The sea beast receives his “power and his throne and great authority” (Rev 13:2) from the dragon and makes the world worship the dragon (Rev 13:4).

The earth beastexercises all the authority of the first beast” (Rev 13:12) and “makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast” (Rev 13:12). (The first beast is the one from the sea.)

Through miracles, the earth beast deceives the people “to make an image to the beast” (Rev 13:14). It is then the image of the beast which kills the people who refuse to accept the mark of the beast (Rev 13:15).

Authority, therefore, passes from the dragon to the beast, from the beast to the false prophet, and from the false prophet to the image of the beast.

Babylon in Revelation 13

Babylon is not mentioned at all in Revelation 13, but, for the following reasons, she must be part of these four entities:

Firstly, while the beast and its allies persecute God’s people (e.g., Rev 13:7; 13:15), Babylon is guilty of their blood: “In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth” (Rev 18:24).

Secondly, the third angel warns against the beast, its image, and its mark (Rev 14:9). In other words, the three angels (Rev 14:6-11) bring their messages during the great end-time persecution of God’s people as described in Revelation 13; when the image of the beast forces people to accept the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16). But then, surprisingly, the second angel announces. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great” (Rev 14:8).

Thirdly, in the sixth plague, we again see the dragon, the sea beast, and the false prophet at work. They send forth demon spirits to gather together the kings of the world (Rev 16:13-14). Again, Babylon is not mentioned, but. in the next and final plague, again surprisingly, Babylon receives God’s “fierce wrath” (Rev 16:19).

Babylon, therefore, is not something distinct but an integral part of the other four evil characters described in Revelation 13. The question is:

How do they relate?

Both the scarlet beast of Revelation 17 and the beast from the sea in Revelation 13 have seven heads and ten horns (Rev 13:1; 17:3). Superficially, this seems to indicate that they are one and the same. But if they are the same and if Babylon is distinct from the scarlet beast, then Babylon is also distinct from the sea beast, which would contradict the conclusions above.

Therefore, we propose that the scarlet beast (Rev 17:3) is not the same as the sea beast (Rev 13:1). For one thing, the sea beast is in control and is worshiped by the whole earth (Rev 13:8) while the scarlet beast has an inferior role: The harlot sits on it and reigns over it (Rev 17:3, 18).

Specific Organizations

As discussed in the article – The Seven-Headed Beasts – the four entities in Revelation 13 are specific organizations that come into existence at specific points in history:

The dragon, when it also is described as having seven heads and ten horns (Rev 12:3), is the Roman Empire.

The article on the seven-headed beasts identifies the sea beast as the 11th horn of Daniel 7 that grows out of the Roman Empire. Another article identifies it further as the church of the Middle Ages. In other words, it no longer exists today but has broken up into the modern denominations. It only exists today in the form of its influence through the present-day denominations and their orthodox doctrines.

The false prophet comes into existence when it comes out of the earth and the image of the beast comes into existence when the people of the world make it (Rev 13:11, 14). These, therefore, are also specific organizations that come into existence at specific points in history.

Babylon Always Exists.

In contrast to these four entities, the following indicates that Babylon and her beast always exist:

She guilty of the deaths of all of God’s people who died for their faith; from Abel onwards: “In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth” (Rev 18:24; cf. 17:6; 19:2).

She is the “mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (Rev 17:5). As the “mother of harlots,” has daughters who also are harlots. Babylon, therefore, is the source of all the evil in the world today, which she passed on to her daughters. Long before the time of Nebuchadnezzar, Moses identified certain practices as abominations (Lev 7:18; 11 cf. Deut 18:9-12). Since the harlot is the mother of the abominations of the earth, she predates Moses. 

Babylon sits on the beast (Rev 17:3) but she also sits on all seven heads of the beast. The seven heads are seven consecutive “kings” (Rev 17:9-10) or empires, which means that Babylon exists during all seven consecutive heads. The article on the seven heads identifies them as seven empires or ages from the time of the prophet Daniel in the 6th century BC to the return of Christ. Babylon, therefore, exists at least from the time of ancient Babylon to the end of the world.

Since Babylon always exists, the scarlet beast on which she sits also always exists. They cannot be limited to a specific time in the past, present or future.

A Timeless Principle

That Babylon sits on the scarlet beast (Rev 17:3) is explained as that: “The woman … reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18). Since Babylon and her beast always exist, this is a worldwide and TIMELESS PRINCIPLE.

The dragon, the beast, the false prophet and the image of the beast are specific organizations. Each exists for a specific period and each of them is one specific instance of the Babylonian principle.

The other articles in this series identify Babylon as religion. The vision of Babylon sitting on the beast, therefore, symbolizes how religion has always dominated the civil authorities to force people to accept her doctrines.

The Beast

The beast from the sea has been identified as the church of the Middle Ages. In Revelation 13, the beast is in charge since all who dwell on the earth will worship it (Rev 13:8). However, Revelation 17 reveals that that beast consisted of two parts: The kings of the earth and false Christianity (the harlot) which dominated them, using them to silence her opponents.

The Babylonian principle also applied in the first three centuries. In those centuries, Babylon (false religion) took the form of emperor worship and other pagan religions which encouraged the empire to persecute God’s people.

In the fourth century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and the emperors appointed the church leaders and the church leaders became accountable to the emperor. Thereafter, Christianity evolved and took on the nature of the Roman Empire; thereby adopting the Babylonian principle.

A series of articles on the website explains the development of the church. After the Western Roman Empire divided into the kingdoms of early Europe in the fifth century, the Christian Church remained behind as the remnant of the Roman Empire. Eventually, during the High Middle Ages, the church dominated the kingdoms of Europe and persecuted God’s people through political powers. The alliances between church and state during the Middle Ages was one example of the general principle of the woman (false religion) sitting on (reigning over) the beast (the kings of the world) (Rev 17:3, 18). 

The Image of the Beast

The image of the beast will be a replica of the system during the Middle Ages, namely the unity of the institutional church and the state in such a way that the church will dominate the political rulers. This will be another instance of the Babylonian principle.

The Babylonian Spirit

That the church of the Middle Ages was a form of false religion does not refer to specific doctrines. The clearest characteristic of the Babylonian spirit is the proud and arrogant spirit of persecution; completely dissimilar to that of the humble Servant (Phil 2:5-7). Whenever we see Christians persecuting other Christians, we see the beast in action. Persecution may take various forms.

However, certain doctrines, such as the doctrine that sinners will be tormented eternally, present God as a cruel tyrant and promote that spirit of cruelty.

Final Conclusions

Babylon is part of the dragon, the beast from the sea, the beast from the earth, and the image of the beast.

Babylon and her beast always exist. She and the beast on which she sits symbolizes a timeless principle, namely that religion “ reigns over the kings of the earth.” The dragon, the beast, the false prophet and the image of the beast are specific instances of the Babylonian principle.

Articles in this Series

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