“And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement”
And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Babylon is in Iraq about 50 miles south of Baghdad on the south side of the Euphrates River.
The Bible refers to Babylon 280 times. Generally, the Bible views Babylon as the source of false religion. This system of thought finds its way throughout the Bible. It sets forth a rival international religious kingdom to the Kingdom of Christ.
The tower of Babel was the first attempt at international religion (Genesis 10,11). Nimrod founded Babylon. He hunted human souls.
“Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.’ And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Babylon), Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar” (Genesis 10:8).
According to extra-biblical accounts, Nimrod’s wife (Semiramis) established the secret religious rites of the Babylonian mysteries. Semiramis supposedly gave birth to a son by miraculous conception. She gave him the name Tammuz. This religion accepted both mother and child as gods, and attempted to fake salvation (Genesis 3:15). Tammuz was purportedly killed by a wild animal and then raised from the dead, a fake of Christ’s resurrection. Babylonians view Tammuz as their savior. The later worship of Baal was connected to the veneration of Tammuz.
The religious system of Babylon had many secrets (mysteries) into which they initiated their followers. These rites included male and female prostitution, which worshipped the mother and child. This religion spread throughout the then- known world (Greece, Egypt, Italy, Phoenicia, Israel, India, Asia Minor and Europe). This is why Revelation calls her “the Mother of Harlots” (17:5).
When the Persians conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., they dissuaded the practice of the mystery religions. In time, these Babylonian cults moved to Pergamum (2:12-17). Eventually these mystery religions paganized Christianity. We see this manifested in much of the ritual that is in many churches today.
Chief priests of the Babylonian cult wore crowns in the shape of a fish head in honor of the fish god. These crowns carried the words “Keeper of the Bridge.” This was a symbol of the bridge between Satan and man. Roman emperors later adopted the title Pontifex Maximus, which means “Major Keeper of the Bridge.” The bishop of Rome took this title as well. Roman Catholics call the pope pontiff today (which word derives from Pontifex).
Genesis 11:3-4 shows the rebellion of Nimrod and his people against God. God ordered the peoples of earth to divide by races and geography (Genesis 9,10) but Nimrod had a better idea. He wanted to establish an international religion and government, so he built a ziggurat. A ziggurat is a huge sacred tower made of dried brick for worshipping heathen deities. Astrology, the zodiac and the mother-child cult were the center of their worship. This was an attempt by humanity to resolve its own problems by religion apart from a transcendent God. Babylon became the major progenitor of idolatry throughout the then-known world.
“And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’” (Genesis 11:4).
Consequently, God judged Babylon by dividing them into nations and languages. The name Babel itself means confusion. Mankind has the proclivity to seek autonomy from God. It’s primary means for this is the confusion of internationalism. God will again judge internationalism during the Tribulation period (chapters 17 & 18).
The Persians under Cyrus the Mede conquered Babylon. Later the Greeks under Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persians and Babylon fell to the West. Both the Persians and the Greeks made Babylon their capitol.
In Isaiah 36 and 37, God delivers Hezekiah, King of Judah from Sennacherib King of Assyria. Later Hezekiah lapses in faith so Isaiah prophesies (38,39) that the King of Assyria will carry off his treasuries and people to Assyria. This was a prophecy of the Babylonian captivity. Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled this prophecy 100 years later by invading Judah and destroying the city of Jerusalem and the temple. No king of Israel has sat on the throne since. Israel is now in the Times of the Gentiles.
The Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar (600 B.C.) is the context for the prophecies of the book of Daniel. Daniel is the Revelation of the Old Testament. Daniel 2 speaks of the “Times of the Gentiles.”
The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel condemn Babylonian religion (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19,25; Ezekiel 8:14).
Bacchus or Baal is another name for Tammuz. Astarte or Cybele was the mother who bears the keys to Babylonian religion. Julius Caesar, the emperor of the Roman Empire, became the high priest of this Babylonian cult thinking. That is why his crown bore the name “Pontifex Maximus.” Today the pope wears a title taken from “Pontifex Maximus” which is ironically the title for the fish god, Dagon.
The word Babylon stands for more than a city. It represents a system of religion and politics. When we think of finance in North America, we think of Wall Street or Bay Street (in Canada). These streets represent financial institutions. Babylon depicts a future apostate single-world religion and government in Revelation 17 and 18.
This verse calls the great whore the “mother of harlots.” Other religions will follow her lead into eclecticism, syncretism and latitudinarianism. She is the mother of harlots in the sense that many other religions will follow her into a one world religion.
I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.
This harlot hates the saints, so she martyrs them. Apostate religion is never neutral toward biblical Christianity. She knows nothing of the mutually exclusive truth of the Word of God. All she will accept is latitudinarianism, syncretism or eclecticism. One world religion will violate mutually exclusive ideas. She is unsparing toward them to the extent that she becomes drunk with the idea of killing Christians.
John’s utter shock at one world religion was due to the idea that Christianity would become so apostate in the last days. The power of persecution in ecumenical religion staggered even the apostle John.
Biblically, mutually exclusive tolerance is no virtue.
We can see three characteristics of Babylonianism:
1) Babylonianism as a world religion will be characterized by eclecticism [no one system of truth is right; no single truth contains an integral unity].
2) Another characteristic of this system is syncretism [merging of all religions into one]. In this view, every truth is so true that any other truth must be false. There is a least common denominator to truth and no one truth is the key. There is a grand synthesis out there.
3) The third characteristic of Babylonianism is latitudinarianism [truth is not important; this is especially true where tolerance becomes the prominent idea for one’s belief; modernists are latitudinarian in their beliefs].
As Chesterton said, “Tolerance is the virtue of people who do not believe anything.”