What is Mystery Babylon the Great?

Mystery Babylon the GreatThe rise and continuation of the city-state system.

Mystery Babylon the Great is one of the most important elements of the book of Revelation. It closes the loop between the devil, working through his beast system with the anti-christ, and the nations of the earth.

There have been many iterations of the evil spiritual kingdom that have interacted closely with human rulers. The relationship will amplify towards the end of this age as shown through symbology in the book of Revelation. Here, Babylon is described figuratively to mean all evil earthly kingdoms.

Bible commentators have thought that Mystery Babylon the Great is Rome, Jerusalem, or a restoration of ancient Babylon. Many interpretations have been derived from a vague passage by an angel describing the Prostitute in Revelation 17 verse 18 – the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.

The angel does not provide a complete answer in this short verse, so we need to know what the biblical definition of “city” is. Is there a literal city with powerful people working behind the scenes to control rulers over the earth, or is the city symbolic? We will focus our attention on the symbolic.

History of Power by the Elite

Throughout history we notice that many kings and other leaders had unnatural desires to expand their control, wealth, and land regions. It seems that they were never satisfied. This hunger for more power is an important aspect to consider in Genesis 6:1-4 and Genesis 10:8-12. These passages describe the rise of the city-state system before and after the flood. The practices of taking multiple wives or building towers are not necessary as they were long ago, yet the desire for control of territories and people remains. De Coulanges thoroughly describes the relationship of religious and political systems within city-states in his book, The Ancient City.

Scripture records that pagan nations heavily influenced Israel to subscribe to the city-state system in passages like 1 Kings 14:22-24, 2 Kings 17:7-12, and Isaiah 57:3-9. These examples show the worship of false gods, described as demons in Deuteronomy 32:17. We may think that the demonic realm only affected religious practices, but we know the political sphere was integrated with religion through priests and kings. There is a wide range of historical records with priest-kings in Sumer, Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Looking forward, there are only two conclusive cities during the last days of this age and the beginning of the next age, according to Scripture. One is the city that God builds as everlasting, while the other is the city that humanity builds, only to be destroyed towards the end of our age. Obviously, Mystery Babylon the Great is the symbolic city that man builds since there are no good qualities of the woman who rides the beast in Revelation 17, or any righteous characteristics found in Revelation 18.

We know Christ went to “prepare a place” for us mentioned in John 14:3. We also know this is a dwelling place man will not build from Nathan’s prophecy in 1 Chronicles 17 verses 9 and 10.

We will see this city called New Jerusalem in the future based upon the vision of Revelation 21 verses 2 through 4. It is designed and built by God with the most wonderful depictions mentioned later in Revelation Chapter 21.

The intent has always been for God to dwell with man using His means, not for people to build their own type of system to please Him (Acts 17:24-25). The bad news is that humanity has continually asked for help through alternative means from the demonic, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

What we are concerned with in this study is the figurative city that man has constructed over thousands of years. This concept started with a literal city built by Cain (Genesis 4:17) and grew into a bigger concept after the flood.

Genesis 11:5 – And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.

Many well-documented attempts in history display a theme of establishing self-interest for the elite through development of religio-political systems. Livy provides details in The History of Rome, Book 1. He uncovers how wealthy families got their power through myths and their association to the gods. Ancestral tradition (mos maiorum) then built the war machine.

Book 1 – [7] Such traditions as belong to the time before the city was founded, or rather was presently to be founded, and are rather adorned with poetic legends than based upon trustworthy historical proofs, I purpose neither to affirm nor to refute. It is the privilege of antiquity to mingle divine things with human, and so to add dignity to the beginnings of cities; [8] and if any people ought to be allowed to consecrate their origins and refer them to a divine source, so great is the military glory of the Roman People that when they profess that their Father and the Father of their Founder was none other than Mars, the nations of the earth may well submit to this also with as good a grace as they submit to Rome’s dominion…

Old Testament Parallels to Revelation

The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel tell us the foundational meaning of Mystery Babylon the Great that Rome was involved in. We can trace their inspired words of Isaiah 47 and Ezekiel 27 to clear parallels of the “city of man” in Revelation 18. In these 3 chapters we notice many attributes that encompass Mystery Babylon being built by humankind’s efforts, but with the help of demons.

There are dual fulfillment prophecies in the Bible that we need to know about concerning past and future kingdoms. For example, Isaiah pointed to a near-term destruction of Babylon in Isaiah 47, but he also envisioned an ultimate destruction of Mystery Babylon. Revelation 18 echoes his vision that applies to the end of our age, when all human attempts are thwarted.

The bookends of Chapter 18 speak of demons in verse 2 and sorcery in verse 23. Humanity’s efforts are throughout the rest of the chapter within this sphere of influence. These city-states with their financial and military systems could not be built without the help of the demonic realm.

Ezekiel also speaks of dual fulfillment in Chapter 27 of his book. Tyre is the city-state of reference in this passage. It traces back through ancient Canaanite cultures to the Phoenicians of his period. The important point for end-time prophecy is that this vision is repeated in Revelation 18 with much of the same language.

Tyre is mentioned to be involved with wealth building, slave trade, and other prideful acts of the elite classes that are summarized in Ezekiel 27:33. These attempts by groups of power-hungry people have led to political and religious control over multitudes.

We find the source of the religio-political theme when we compare Isaiah and Ezekiel with Revelation Chapter 18. After the demon reference in 18:2 to set the table, we see leaders drink from the same cup. Please note that sexual immorality is spiritual, not a physical act in these cases. These elite of the earth shared the same spirit of demons by drinking from their cup.

Revelation 18:3 For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.

Revelation 18:7a As she glorified herself and lived in luxury

Revelation 18:9a And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her

We can surmise that John’s vision in Revelation draws from the same source as Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s visions. It is the Holy Spirit. We can learn from all three chapters that the city-state system has been in operation for a long time and that it is called by different names. However, the details remain the same as shown in the Appendix table or the Revelation Passages section of this site. Wealth building and luxurious living for the elite are common themes that are associated to the demonic realm.

The background of Mystery Babylon is also mentioned in Revelation 17. A prostitute is presented as the symbol for the city-state. This does not reflect literal adultery between her and the nations of the earth since it is spiritual harlotry. It is likened to a wife selling herself when it is not needed because she has a husband. The Bible often uses prostitute terms for people bonding with demons (false gods – see Psalm 106:28-39). This is unnatural since the bond was meant for God and His bride (see Isaiah 49:14-18, Isaiah 62:1-5, Revelation 19:7-9, Revelation 21:2-9).

The table in the Appendix compares Revelation 17 verses related to the wicked-state with other referenced passages. Like Revelation 18, John’s vision is shared by the Holy Spirit as He did with Jeremiah, Daniel and others.

A common theme of Revelation chapters 17 and 18 is the mother city-state’s association to the demonic realm and the nations of the earth. This is a merger of an unholy church and state that has been occurring for thousands of years. The religion used can vary. The common thread is that there have been leaders to control the masses and amass wealth.

The Role of the Demonic Realm

Why would humans knowingly consult demons? Demons were often considered the good spirits of gods or ancestors in ancient times (see Hesiod. Works and Days, Lines 109-139). Since Christianity has demonized demons in the West, they now hide in the open hearts of people. There is no need for a king or president to join the occult and make a sacrifice on an altar to false gods. Alignment with the spirit realm can be through a person’s heart that has selfish desires. This has always been the case, even though demons have gone “underground.”

Humans and demons share the same selfish ambitions. Mark 7:21-23 – For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery… All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

James 3:14-16 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual [opposite of good spirits], demonic.For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

There is direct or indirect contact with demons, deliberate or unknowing. However, in all cases it boils down to selfish desires. Whether it be greed, lust, immoral ambition, or hunger for power, all leaders that have sought control over people for their own gain will be castigated in the end.

The Day of the Lord

Today we have global conglomerate corporations, an industrial military complex, a pharmaceutical medical complex, centralized global banking, and many corrupt governments around the world. It looks like the Prostitute has been doing exactly what the Bible predicted. Nations that rely on these means of wealth generation will see an abrupt halt according to several passages in Revelation, including the 6th seal.

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains,

Revelation 6:17 for the great day of their [God’s] wrath has come, and who can stand?

We should notice that the 6th seal of Revelation 6 has similar language to Revelation 18. This is the end of the corrupt city-state and time for the wrath of God to come at the Day of the Lord period. Isaiah 2 also links these two chapters together with the same prophecies in verses 17 through 21 –

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,

and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,

and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

And the idols shall utterly pass away.

And people shall enter the caves of the rocks

and the holes of the ground…

In that day mankind will cast away

their idols of silver and their idols of gold,

which they made for themselves to worship…

from before the terror of the LORD,

and from the splendor of his majesty,

when he rises to terrify the earth.

The Beast’s Relationship to Mystery Babylon

The Prostitute city-state system ends as predicted in Revelation 17:16 – And the ten horns [kingdoms] that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute [Mystery Babylon]. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire

Even though the beast of Revelation with its 10 kingdoms destroys the city-state system, it is because of God’s judgment.

Revelation 18:8b and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.

We then notice the city-state beneficiaries mourn the death of their gravy train (Revelation 18:16-19). The loss of control and wealth will be immense.

The timing of Armageddon and other Day of the Lord events mentioned in Revelation have not yet occurred when Mystery Babylon the Great is destroyed. In the end, it is the beast vs. God. We know who wins.

Revelation 19:20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.

Before we finish, we should consider one other relationship between the beast and the harlot city-state of Mystery Babylon the Great. This is reflected by the timing of the beast and its heads.

The Prostitute of Revelation is not a city-state like Rome because of the 7 heads on the beast she is identified with. She was active at all stages of the “high places” in history. The timing for her is clear during the 1st century.

  1. The beast, in its entirety, was not active when John wrote the book of Revelation. Chapter 17 verse 8 – The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about [going] to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. 
  2. Only one head of the beast was active when John wrote Revelation. Chapter 17 verses 9 and 10 -… the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come…

A final summary is that 6th head of the beast is the demonic link to the city-state of Rome, but the beast itself does not have complete authority on earth until the end of the age (Revelation 13:4).

The last head of the beast is the completion of spiritual interaction to the city-state system of man. The human race will lose all “control” when the 10 kingdoms of the earth hand their authority over to the beast. Then the devil will not need a “middle-man”. He will have direct access to people towards the end of this age we live in. However, we must remember that God allows this to happen for His plans to be fulfilled.

Revelation 17:17 for God has put it into their hearts [10 kingdoms] to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

More details are covered in this article – “What is the Beast of Revelation?

A video version of this article can be found here

“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” All scripture quotes in italics.

All bold-face type within Scripture quotations has been added by the author for emphasis.

© 2021 by K.J. Soze