|Babylon, Mystical |
(Revelation 16:19; Revelation 16:17; Revelation 16:18; Revelation 19:2-3). Not 1 Peter 5:13, where "Babylon" can only mean the literal Babylon: "the (church) at Babylon .... saluteth you." A friendly salutation is hardly the place wherein to find mystical phraseology. The whole epistle, moreover, is remarkably plain, and contains none of the imagery of prophecy. Moreover the literal Babylon was the center from which the Asiatic "dispersion" (dispersed Jews), whom Peter addresses, was derived. Babylon contained many Jews in the apostolic age ("one of the greatest knots of Jews in the world:" Lightfoot, quoted in Smith's Dictionary), and doubtless "the apostle of the circumcision," Peter, who had among his hearers on Pentecost (Acts 2) "the dwellers of Mesopotamia," would visit the Jews there. "Bosor," which Peter uses for Pethor (Numbers 22:5; 1 Peter 5:15), is the Aramaic pronunciation moreover; Josephus contra Apion, 1:7, Ant. 15:3, section 1, also favors the Aramaic Babylon.
The "woman arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication, and upon her forehead having a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (Revelation 17:4-5), is avowedly mystical. The later Jews regarded Rome in the same light as their fathers regarded Babylon (Jeremiah 51:7, compare Revelation 14:8.) John had seen the woman "clothed with the sun, and the moon (the earth's satellite) under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars "; i.e. God's pure church of the Old Testament and of the New Testament clothed with the Sun of righteousness, and having the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles as her coronet (Revelation 12).
Then she was "persecuted" by" the dragon, Satan," but nourished by divine Providence for "three and a half times" "in the wilderness" of the Gentile world. But now he prophetically sees her sadly and awfully changed. So he "wondered great admiration." The spiritual Jerusalem has become mystical Babylon; the church has become the harlot! The same truth under the same imagery appears in Isaiah 1:21, "How is the faithful city become an harlot!" That the world should be beastly (Daniel 7) is natural, but that she whose calling was to be the faithful bride should become the Babylonian whore is monstrous (Jeremiah 2:12-13; Jeremiah 2:20). Not that the elect apostatize; but Christendom, as a whole, and as the visible "woman," has apostatized from its first faith and love. The elect invisible church, the true "woman" and "bride," remains hidden in the visible that has become the harlot, and shall only be manifested when Christ our Life is manifested (Colossians 3:1).
External prevalence over the world, and internal corruption by the world, (the spirit of the world ruling the church) is symbolized by the world-city's name Babylon; the contrast to "Jerusalem above, the mother of all" believers (Galatians 4:26), the "holy Jerusalem, that great city," which shall hereafter on the "new earth" "descend out of heaven from God, having the glory of God" (Revelation 21:10). The Roman Catholic Church is the prominent type of Babylon, resting on the world power, and arrayed like it in its "scarlet" gauds, and ruling it by its claim of supremacy, while the beast or secular power on which it rests is "full of names of blasphemy," which after the harlot's overthrow shall be more glaringly displayed. It and the Greek apostasy are whorish in principle, by external and internal idolatry and systematized worldliness.
The evangelical Protestant church is pure in theory, and eschews image and host-mass worship; but in so far as it yields to "covetousness which is idolatry," and conforms to the world, it partakes of the harlot and ceases to be the bride. Compare Achan's "Babylonian garment," Joshua 7:21; Hebrew: "a robe of Shinar." While the Syrians were noted for dyeing, and the Phrygians for patchwork, the Babylonians inwove their garments (Tertullian De Habitu Mul., i.), i.e. tapestry work with colored figures inwoven or wrought with the needle: Pliny H.N., 8:48. Septuagint has psilee poikilee, "a smooth, pictured coat." Such garments passed through Jericho in the trade between the Phoenicians and Babylon (Ezekiel 27:24.) In the case of both the Catholic churches and the Protestant churches God's retributive law holds good.
When the church forsakes her true Husband for the love of the world (contrast Psalm 45:10-11), the world, the instrument of her sin, becomes the instrument of her punishment. Already this is taking place in Spain, Italy, Austria, and France (Revelation 17:16). Our turn shall come next; as in the case of Israel first, then Judah (Ezekiel 23), then the restored Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome, for whom Jerusalem gave up the true "King of the Jews" (John 11:48; John 11:50; John 19:15). Then "iniquity" shall be no longer as now in "mystery," but openly developed in the last awful Antichrist who shall combine the world against Christ in a system of superstitious credulity and infidelity together (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 16:13-16; Revelation 17:17; Revelation 19:19). The final judgment on Babylon the whore (Revelation 17), after the elect shall have been translated out of it and transfigured, seems to be just before the judgment on Antichrist.
Babylon, the spiritual whore, is succeeded "the false prophet," who ministers to Antichrist and perishes with him (Revelation 19:20). Rome's forced outward unity, of which its one official language, Latin, is the symbol while inwardly there is spiritual confusion, answers to Babel, the scene of the forced attempt at concentration of power and peoples, issuing in utter confusion of tongues; so too, in a wider sense; does all Christendom in its apostasy from apostolic unworldly purity, faith, and love.
The harlot retains human shape as woman, does not become a beast; i.e., has "the form of godliness while denying the power." (Manliness is godliness, because man was made in the image of God.) The worldliness of the church is therefore the most worldly of all worldliness, and shall be terribly judged by God. But the whore or Babylon is not to be confounded with the beast. She, however degraded, has borne the divine image; the beast never has. She must fall before the beast develops all his hostility to God.
These dictionary topics are from Fausset Bible Dictionary, 1949. Public Domain.
Fausset, Andrew R. "Entry for 'Babylon, Mystical'". "Fausset Bible Dictionary".