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

Revelation 13:1-2 – The Beast is the successor of the beasts of Daniel 7.

SUMMARY

THIS BEAST IS DIFFICULT TO DRAW, BUT THIS DRAWING IS CORRECT IN SHOWING THE SEVENTH HEAD AS MUCH BIGGER THAN THE OTHERS AND BY PUTTING ALL TEN HORNS ON THIS HEAD.

This article discusses Revelation 13:1-2. Revelation 12 described a series of wars in which the dragon was involved; from before the birth of Christ to the end-time. That chapter ends with another defeat for the dragon, forcing him to “go away” (Rev 12:17). In Rev 13:1, it stands on the sand of the seashore, waiting for the beast to come up out of the sea.

The sea represents the population of the world. That it comes out of the sea means that it is a formation of the peoples of the world. 

SUCCESSOR OF THE BEASTS OF DANIEL 7

Daniel 7 describes four beasts coming out of the sea, representing four empires that will rule the world; identified as Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.  For the following reasons, the beast in Revelation 13 is a successor of those four empires:

      • Like them, the beast comes out of the sea.
      • The beast has seven heads and ten horns. This equal the total number of heads and horns among the four beasts of Daniel 7.
      • The beast looks like a leopard, has feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion (Rev 13:2). These are explicitly three of the four beasts of Daniel 7; Babylon, Persia, and Greece.

This means that the beast is part of the series of beasts in Daniel 7.

The beast receives something from each of the leopard, bear, and lion (Rev 13:2), but it also receives something from “the dragon” (Rev 13:2). Since it also has seven heads and ten horns, the dragon is also part of the series of beasts in Daniel 7.

SUCCESSOR OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

While the beast has crowns on its horns, the dragon has crowns on his heads. In Daniel 7, the horns follow in time AFTER the beasts. Therefore:

The crowns on the horns of the sea beast mean that we are now IN the time of the horns of Daniel 7. In other words, the beast is one of the horns of Daniel’s fourth beast.

The crowns on its heads imply that the dragon is one of the four beasts of Daniel 7.

The beast receives his power and his throne and great authority from the dragon. In other words, it is the successor of the dragon:

This article shows that the dragon is the fourth beast of Daniel 7.  The articles on Daniel 7 have shown that that fourth beast is the Roman Empire.

That the sea beast receives “his power his throne and great authority” from the Roman Empire means that the sea beast is the real descendant or successor of the Roman Empire.

NEXT: Revelation 13:3-4 – The fatal wound

– END OF SUMMARY –

13:1 – THE BEAST’S HEADS

And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore.
Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea,
having ten horns and seven heads,
and on his horns were ten diadems,
and on his heads were blasphemous names.

As is typical in Revelation, when a new character is introduced, it is first described VISUALLY. Revelation 13:1-2 offers a physical and visual description of the beast from the sea. The subsequent verses will describe his actions. 

And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore.

In older translations, such as the King James Version, this verse reads:

And I stood upon the sand of the sea.”

In other words, John himself stands on the sand of the sea. In contrast, in modern translations, it is THE DRAGON. The reason for this difference is that the earliest manuscripts of Revelation read “he,” which would refer to the dragon mentioned in the previous verse (Rev 12:17). The reading “I” (John) is most common in the later manuscripts from the Middle Ages.

Another reason why “the dragon” is preferred is that the “dragon” fits the story-line better:

In Revelation 13, the dragon, the sea beast, and the land beast work together (e.g., Rev 13:4; 13:11-12). If it is the dragon that stands on the sand of the sea, then it the dragon that “goes away” (Rev 12:17) to the shore of the sea to secure reinforcements to enable it “to make war with the rest of her children” (Rev 12:17). From the vantage point of the “seashore,” the dragon is then joined by a beast from the sea (Rev 13:1) and a beast from the earth (Rev 13:11).

If it is John that stands on the seashore, then the link between the dragon and the two new creatures is less obvious.

Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea

Sea – Beasts also come out of the sea in Daniel 7. In that vision, the sea is equivalent to “the earth” (Dan 7:2, 17), representing the people of the world. In other words, the beasts are formations of the people of the world. This implies that the sea in Revelation also represents the peoples of the world.

Come up – To come up out of the sea means to come into existence; it is the birth of the sea beast.

Having ten horns and seven heads

John here first describes the horns and heads and then the beast’s body (in verse 2). Perhaps he saw the heads and horns first, as the beast rose from the sea.

The previous section noted that beasts come OUT OF THE SEA in both Daniel 7 and in Revelation 13:1. Another link to Daniel 7 is the ten horns and seven heads, for the seven heads and ten horns of the sea beast are equal to the TOTAL number of heads and horns of the four beasts of Daniel 7:

      • The leopard of Daniel 7:5 has FOUR heads while the other three each have one; seven in total.
      • The fourth beast of Daniel 7:7 has TEN horns, while the other three have none.

This similarity is not a coincidence. The seven heads and ten horns of the beast from the sea indicate that the sea beast contains within itself the history and characteristics of all four beasts in Daniel 7. It means that the sea beast is part of the series of beasts in Daniel 7.

The dragon, in Revelation 12:3, also has TEN horns and SEVEN heads. One can say that the dragon and the beast are two instances of a new species. It means that BOTH beasts are part of the series of beasts in Daniel 7. This will become clearer as we read on.

But it does NOT mean that the seven heads in Revelation are the same as the seven heads in Daniel or that the ten horns in Revelation are the same as the ten horns in Daniel. This will also be explained below.

IMAGE OF THE DRAGON

Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). “He is the radiance of His (God’s) glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb 1:3). In other words, we would know His Father’s character by looking at Jesus.

In the same way, because they look the same, if we have seen the beast, we have seen the dragon. Since the dragon represents Satan in the primary sense (Rev 12:9), the beast from the sea represents an earthly power that exhibits Satan’s character.

And on his horns were ten diadems

“Diadems” is the untranslated Greek word, meaning crowns of rulers, in contrast to the victory crowns of the Olympics [stephanoi].

One difference between the dragon and the sea beast is that the dragon has diadems ON ITS HEADS (Rev 12:3) while the sea beast has diadems ON ITS HORNS. Since horns grow on heads, meaning that heads exist before the horns, it means that the sea beast, with its crowns on it horns, exists LATER than the dragon with its crowns on its heads.

From Daniel 7, we are able to explain this more specifically:

In Daniel 7, four beasts come up from the sea; one after the other. They symbolize four successive empires that would rule the known world; identified as Babylon, Persia, Greece, and the Roman Empire.

The fourth beast (the Roman Empire) has ten horns. These horns symbolize the kingdoms into which the Roman Empire fragmented (Dan 7:24). See – The Decline and Fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Therefore:

The crowns on the horns of the beast implies that it exists DURING the time of the horns of Daniel 7.

More specifically, it even implies that the sea beast is ONE OF the horns of Daniel’s fourth beast! In other words, the sea beast is a fragment of the Roman Empire.

And, since the dragon has crowns on its heads, it implies that it exists BEFORE the time of the horns. It may even imply that the dragon is one of the four beasts of Daniel 7!

And on his heads were blasphemous names

In Revelation 17 we see another beast that has seven heads and ten horns (Rev 17:3) and there we learn that the heads are successive (Rev 17:9-10). The seven heads of the beast, therefore, are seven consecutive phases of the beast’s existence.

The blasphemous name on each head of the sea beast is compounded in Revelation 17 where the beast is described as “full of the names of blasphemy” (Rev 17:3).

The ultimate definition of blasphemy in the Bible is found in John 10:33, where some Jewish leaders are ready to stone Jesus for blasphemy. They said, “You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” A blasphemous name could, therefore, mean to demean God, but it can also mean to assert a right to His place, to claim the prerogatives of God and equality with Him.

Since the beast is part of the series of beasts of Daniel 7, and since those beasts include empires such as the Roman Empire, it seems as if this blasphemy is to demean God.

13:2 – THE BEAST’S BODY

And the beast which I saw was like a leopard,
and his feet were like those of a bear,
and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.
And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.

Verse 1 described the beast’s heads. Now Verse 2 describes its body. 

Beast … like a leopard,
feet … like … a bear,
mouth like … a lion.

Daniel 7 refers explicitly to these three animals as the first three beasts that came up out of the sea in Daniel 7. A comparison of the beasts of Daniel 7 and 8 identifies these beasts as follows:

      • The first was a winged lion (Dan 7:4), which also was an ancient symbol for Babylon, so represented on gates built by King Nebuchadnezzar himself.
      • The second was a bear that was raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth (Dan 7:5), representing the kingdom of Medo-Persia.
      • The third beast, a four-headed leopard (Dan 7:6), represented Alexander the Great’s Grecian Empire.

This is a third indication that the sea beast is part of the series of beasts in Daniel 7.

These three beasts are mentioned in reverse order; possibly because the sea beast exists later. From the time perspective of the sea beast, looking back in history, we see these beasts in that sequence.

The dragon gave him his power his throne and great authority.

Power … throne and great authority” are related terms and perhaps are three ways of saying the same thing.

The sea beast, therefore, receives things from four beasts:

      • A body from the leopard (Greece);
      • Feet from like the bear (Medo-Persia);
      • A mouth from the lion (Babylon) and
      • Authority from the dragon.

This means that the sea beast is a composite of all four beasts of Daniel 7. Since the sea beast receives something from each of these four beasts, it is the successor of all the powers that went before it.

THE DRAGON IS THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

There is a fourth beast in Daniel 7. However, that vision does not name it but describes it as “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet” (Dan 7:7).

For the following reasons, the dragon in Rev 13:2 is the fourth beast of Daniel 7:

Firstly, in Rev 13:2, the sea beast receives something from each of four beasts. Since three of the four are explicitly beasts of Daniel 7, it implies that the fourth is the fourth beast of Daniel. 

Secondly, “dragon” sounds like a good name for the fourth “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong” beast.

The comparison of the beasts of Daniel 7 and 8 identifies the fourth beast in Daniel 7 as the Roman Empire. This means that the dragon in Rev 13:2 is also the Roman Empire.

This dragon (the Roman Empire) “gave him (the sea beast) his power his throne and great authority” (Rev 13:2). This not only means that the power represented by the sea beast exists later than the Roman Empire, but also that it is the real descendant or successor or even the continuation of the Roman Empire.

WHY IS THE DRAGON IDENTIFIED AS SATAN?

But if the dragon is the Roman Empire, why does 12:9 identity the dragon explicitly as Satan (Rev 12:9)? The answer is that Revelation 12 uses “dragon” as a symbol for a range of Satan’s forces during a series of wars. In Revelation 12, the “dragon” wars against:

      • The woman, before the time of Christ (Rev 12:4);
      • Christ, after He was born (Rev 12:5);
      • Michael, in the war in heaven, after Christ ascended to God and to His throne (Rev 12:7-13).
      • The woman again, after the dragon is thrown out of heaven (Rev 12:14-16), and lastly
      • It will “make war with the rest of her children” (Rev 12:17).

These wars cover a broad sweep of history from before Christ to the end of time. In all these wars Revelation 12 identifies Satan’s forces as “the dragon,” but Revelation 13 will make clear that Satan’s forces take different forms at different times. In the context of the war in heaven (Rev 12:7-12), the dragon is identified as Satan (Rev 12:9), but when it stands ready to devour Christ as soon as He is born (Rev 12:3-4), it has seven heads and ten horns, and both the heads and horns represent kings (or kingdoms – Rev 17:9-10, 12). In that context, it is the Roman Empire.

BEASTS ARE HEADS.

As already stated, the seven heads are consecutive (Rev 17:9-10) and, therefore, symbolize seven phases of the beast-power.  

The dragon, identified above as the Roman Empire, is described in Rev 12:3 as having seven heads. The sea beast, identified above as the real successor of the Roman Empire, also has seven heads. These must be the same seven heads or phases of the beast.  What is going on? This can be understood as follows:

Actually, there is no beast. All that we have are seven phases. Each time that we see a beast with seven heads, we see one of those phases.

On this basis:

The dragon and the sea beasts are two of the phases of the beast-power. When the sea beast comes out of the sea (Rev 13:1), it is one of the phases of the beast-power that is born. 

Since the vision in Rev 13:1-2 is based on Daniel 7, Greece, Medo-Persia, and Babylon are three of the other heads (phases) of the beast.

So far, we have identified five of the seven heads or phases:

      1. Babylon
      2. Medo-Persia;
      3. Greece;
      4. Roman Empire – dragon
      5. Sea beast

For identification of the seven heads, see the article – Seven Heads Identified. For identification of the sea beast, the reader may refer to the series of articles on the history of the church, for example:

GROUNDED ON DANIEL 7

In summary, as discussed above, the visual description of the sea beast in Rev 13:1-2 is grounded on the general background of Daniel 7’s four beasts:

Firstly, there are various verbal parallels between the Sea Beast and Daniel 7, for in both we find beasts with many heads and many horns.

Secondly, there are also thematic parallels, namely beasts coming up out of the sea that represent earthly powers.

Thirdly the sea beast receives something from each of the four beasts of Daniel 7.

Fourthly, the seven heads and ten horns of the sea beast equal the total number of heads and horns among the four beasts of Daniel 7.

So, the beast from the sea contains within itself the history and characteristics of all four beasts in Daniel 7. To use other words, the images of Revelation 13:1-2 suggest that Daniel 7 is a listing of the beast’s family tree. That family tree includes all the powers that came before it; Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

OTHER ARTICLES