In early October 2017 I taught from the first part of Revelation 17. In those first 6 or so verses John the Apostle tells of his vision of a woman, a prostitute, riding a scarlet beast and drunk with her ungodly deeds against the saints. The end of that 17th chapter tells us the prostitute was not a literal woman, but a figurative one. She represented Babylon, a real place from antiquity. The nation of Babylon was a prostitute because she took God given things of the earth and used them in an attempt to satisfy her own lusts, her own gains.
In Psalm 501 God outlines three responsibilities of man: obedience, worship and dependence. Babylon did not take the God-given, good things of earth and offer them back to God.
Mankind is to obey, worship and depend upon God
During the class discussion one member raised the following question: Do you think that America could be the Babylon that John was writing about?
That question is fitting, and one I have pondered over the years. Why? Well, the world surely comes after America’s wealth, entertainment, freedom, and many other excellencies. Some years ago after an anti-US rally made the news I found myself in conversation with an international that I knew. His reply was quick, ready-made. He said, “They may raise their fists, but offer any one of them a passport and they will come tomorrow.” So people hunger for American offerings.
So let’s go back to the question my class member raised. Could America be Revelation’s prostitute. My answer to that question rested upon two things. : the reality of Babylon and human tendencies to do their own thing .(…think Frank Sinatra crooning over having done things his way…)
First, there was a real place called Babylon.
It existed from the earliest days of humanity until the time of Alexander the Great. In Genesis we see the descendants Ham, one of Noah’s sons, migrate to the region of Shinar and build a city called Babel. It seems as though God had given a mandate to Noah and his sons to spread out and fill the earth with people, but not all were keen on that. Some wanted to make a name for themselves, and not be scattered over the face of the earth.
God’s will was accomplished in that people spread over the world, but the region/city of Babylon was not entirely abandoned. At least it was not until the Parthian Empire around 160 B.C. Archaeologists of the 1800s and 1900s found the remains of that empire under the sands, and we have learned much from those things.
So while the woman was figurative the angel of Revelation 17 told us what she was figurative of: the great city that had dominion over the kings of the earth. That was Babylon.
Second, Americans like people everywhere want things their way
The hedonism of many parts of the American life and entertainment styles are on display for the world to see. Well, that is a thing that mankind wants. America did not come up with that. Deep inside each of us is that rapid desire to do our own thing. Have you ever heard Frank Sinatra crooning over having done things his way? People will flock to that sound, that image of success. America has it and so certain facets of America are like the prostitute on the beast. America clearly dominates the world economically, but while America has driven world economies it is no global empire.
So, my answer in class was that I do not believe America is the Babylon of Revelation. She has features like that, but she is not that. Similarities do not make a reality.
A third thing came to mind days later…
As I thought about that this morning another thought came to my mind, and one relating to faith. See, God has given us all we need to know of him to place our faith in him. History is part of that. There is a great grace from God when he shows us himself through real people and real places. In the Holy Scriptures we see just such things.
Historical roots are very important in the foundations of my faith. It is a great help to me that God himself interjected himself as a real person in history. See Christianity is not a new religion, but a renewed relationship. The nation of Israel has been an incubator of our understanding of that God-offered, God-desired relationship. It prepared us for his own arrival into it.
Just as Israel arose from the ashes in 1947 I think Babylon will rise from the sands at some point the future. Satan counterfeits, it’s what he does. Babylon was real. Babylon is not now real, but it will rise for a time and go off to destruction. (for the Bible student that may sound like scripture…well, it can be found in the later half of Revelation 17)