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Particulars of Christianity:
314 End Times Prophecy (Eschatology)


Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 4)

Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 1)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 2)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 3)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 4)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 5)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 6)
Prophetic Symbols: The Great Prostitute (Part 7)


Articles 7-12
Articles 13-18
Articles 19-25
Articles 26-29



Having covered Mystery cults historically in the previous section, we will now take some time to focus a little bit on the Mystery cult generally known as Gnosticism. Here is a short excerpt of what encyclopedia.com has to say about Gnosticism.

"Gnosticism, dualistic religious and philosophical movement of the late Hellenistic and early Christian eras. The term designates a wide assortment of sects, numerous by the 2d cent. A.D.; they all promised salvation through an occult knowledge that they claimed was revealed to them alone. Scholars trace these salvation religions back to such diverse sources as Jewish mysticism, Hellenistic mystery cults, Iranian religious dualism (see Zoroastrianism), and Babylonian and Egyptian mythology. The definition of gnosis [knowledge] as concern with the Eternal was already present in earlier Greek philosophy, although its connection with the later Gnostic movement is distant at best...Some Gnostics taught that the world is ruled by evil archons, among them the deity of the Old Testament, who hold captive the spirit of humanity. The heavenly pleroma was the center of the divine life, and Jesus was interpreted as an intermediary eternal being, or aeon, sent from the pleroma to restore the lost knowledge of humanity's divine origin. Gnostics held secret formulas, which they believed would free them at death from the evil archons and restore them to their heavenly abode." - encyclopedia.com

There is no small amount of textual evidence in the New Testament that the apostles were concerned with refuting the Gnostic heretics and their false doctrine. (But that's a subject for another study.) However, what is significant from this encyclopedia.com article is that it also involves a mystery religion that was popular in Roman times, that was present in Persia (Zoroastrianism) and originated partially in Babylon and Egypt.

Likewise, The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001, provides us with the following information about Gnosticism and its beliefs.

1. "The heavenly pleroma was the center of the divine life, and Jesus was interpreted as an intermediary eternal being, or aeon, sent from the pleroma to restore the lost knowledge of humanity's divine origin."
2. Gnosticism "promised salvation through an occult knowledge that they claimed was revealed to them alone."
3. "Gnostics held secret formulas, which they believed would free them at death from the evil archons and restore them to their heavenly abode."
4. "Gnosticism held that human beings consist of flesh, soul, and spirit (the divine spark), and that humanity is divided into classes representing each of these elements. The purely corporeal (hylic) lacked spirit and could never be saved; the Gnostics proper (pneumatic) bore knowingly the divine spark and their salvation was certain;"

We can compare these components of Gnosticism with the beliefs of the Chaldeans that are recorded in Daniel 2. Both the Gnostics and the Babylonians (Chaldeans) believed:

1.in a plurality of gods. (Daniel 2:11, 47)
2.that the gods do not dwell in the flesh. (Daniel 2:11, 47)
3.that the gods reveal secrets to men. (Daniel 2:11, 47)
4.that through understanding deep mysteries and secrets a man could ascend to divinity. (Daniel 2:46 - Nebuchadnezzar worships Daniel because Daniel could reveal the secret meaning of the dream.)
5. in a heirarchy of ascending superiority of gods from the supreme god. (Daniel 2:47).

Similarly, we see that in his first epistle the Apostle John when admonishing us to test the spirits, says:

1 John 4:3 "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist,"

In fact it seems that John was writing to directly refute the teaching of the Gnostics, who held, as their Chaldean predecessors before them, that the gods did not dwell in the flesh. The Gnostics differentiate between Jesus the man and the Christ, which they hold to be an intermediary being who rested on Jesus during his life in order to provide us with some secret knowledge through which we could transcend our physical selves and ascend to a divine state.

From all of this we learn that mystery cults, were prominent in all ancient cultures, including the kingdoms of the Biblical succession found in Daniel 2, 7, and 8. And these mystery cults involved occult knowledge as well as initiation of members through secret rituals. The presence of these cults in all of these kingdoms in the Biblical succession of empires would certainly explain why Revelation 17 depicts the woman as riding the seven-headed beast.

So what have we learned from this brief survey of reference books? Well, when John writes about this woman in Revelation 17 and 18, he is not doing so in a vacuum. John is writing in a period of Christian history where Christianity was contending with Roman society in which ancient mystery cults, which originated in such cultures as Egypt, Babylon, and Greece, were very popular. And based on our earlier survey of the Biblical accounts of such groups and their many correlations to the harlot, Babylon the Great, there can be little doubt that it is these very men who are represented in Revelation 17 and 18.

Now that we have an idea of who this woman from Revelation 17 and 18 is from both Biblical parallels and historical reference we can move on to discuss whether these chapters identify for us concretely, which specific city these men will be associated with in the last days. The two chief contenders are the city of Babylon itself and Rome, Italy. We will now examine the text to see if Revelation 17 and 18 are necessarily identifying either of these two cities.

The reason that some may insist that the actual city of Babylon is depicted in these chapters relies on the very use of the name Babylon. The argument is that because Babylon is used in the passage to identify the city, the city that is depicted must therefore be the literal city of Babylon in modern day Iraq. But does the application of the name Babylon to this great city demand that the city be Babylon, Iraq?

Well, no. The reason for this is that we have precedent that the Bible applies the name of a certain city to another city in order to convey that the two are alike in some significant way. We can point to two examples of this.

The first example we saw earlier in 1 Peter 5:13 where it is likely that the name Babylon is metaphorically applied to Rome, Italy. The second example is more convincing and it comes from the Book of Revelation itself.

Revelation 11:8 And their dead bodies [shall lie] in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Here in Revelation 11 the city in which the two witnesses are killed is identified by two factors. First, it is called Sodom and Egypt. And second, it is where Jesus was crucified. Obviously, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem and not Sodom or Egypt. Therefore, these two cities names are being applied to Jerusalem metaphorically in order to convey that at the time that is in view in this chapter, Jerusalem spiritually possesses some of the characteristics of these cities.

Also, the fact that two different names are applied to the city requires that we understand that their names are being used figuratively. This is because the city cannot literally be both Sodom and Egypt since the two are mutually exclusive and distinct from one another. Therefore, from these precedents we understand that the application of the term Babylon to the harlot and the great city of Revelation 17 and 18 does not necessarily mean that the great city is Babylon, Iraq, but only indicates that this great city will share some characteristics that are associated with Babylon.

As far as this great city being Rome, there are four possible arguments offered to support this conclusion. The first refers to 1 Peter 5:13 as a precedent that the early church referred to Rome, Italy as Babylon. The second argues that Revelation 17:6 and 18:20, 24 indicate that the great city that is in view is the city that is responsible for the death of the first century apostles. The third is that in Revelation 17:18 refers to the great city in the present tense as "that great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth." The idea is that since Rome, Italy was the city that was presently reigning over the kings of the earth at the time Revelation was written by John, Babylon therefore must be Rome, Italy. The fourth and final argument that we will cover demands that Babylon is Rome, Italy because Rome, Italy sits on seven literal hills, while Revelation 17:9 tells us that the woman sits on seven hills or mountains.

As far as 1 Peter 5:13 goes, we agree that the early church probably did equate Rome, Italy with Babylon. But we do not agree that it therefore follows that the name Babylon can only be applied metaphorically to Rome, Italy.

This is because Revelation 17-18 presents a great city, which exists in the last days and tells of the things that happen to this city, which exists in the last days. It is not describing the current state of affairs of a contemporary New Testament city. By saying this we do not mean to rule out Rome, Italy as a potentially fulfilling this prophecy in the end times, but only to show that the possible precedent in 1 Peter 5:13, which refers to a contemporary New Testament city does not necessitate that a future city could also share some attributes of Babylon as Rome did in the first century AD. The only precedent that can be implied from 1 Peter 5:13 is that the term Babylon can be applied to other cities including Rome, Italy, which share some attribute of Babylon. It cannot be used to suggest that the term Babylon can only be applied metaphorically to Rome. We will discuss the time element more when we examine argument three.

The second argument that Babylon must be Rome comes from the following three verses.

Revelation 17:6 "And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration."

Revelation 18:20 "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her."

Revelation 18:24 "And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth."

From these verses some construct the following argument.

Premise 1: Mystery Babylon is a city that is held responsible for the death of the Apostles and Prophets.
Premise 2: Apostles can only refer to a type of church leadership that only existed during the first century AD.
Premise 3: Prophets here refers only to New Testament prophets and does not include Old Testament prophets.
Conclusion 1: Mystery Babylon is a city that is held responsible for the deaths of New Testament Apostles and Prophets.

Premise 4 (Conclusion 1): Mystery Babylon is a city that is held responsible for the deaths of New Testament Apostles and Prophets.
Premise 5: Rome is responsible for the deaths of New Testament Apostles and Prophets.
Conclusion 2: Rome is Mystery Babylon.

There are several reasons that this argument is not valid. First, the fact that there have been no Apostles since the first century AD does not mean that the city, which is held responsible for their deaths had to be a city, which existed in first century AD. Matthew 23:34-36 and Luke 11:49-51 confirm this.

Matthew 23:34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Luke 11:49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: 50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

In both of the above passages we note that Jesus' contemporary generation would be held responsible for the deaths of Abel and Zechariah, two men who both were killed long before Jesus' generation ever came into existence. This tells us that those held responsible for the deaths of God's people do not have to be those who actually killed them, but can be people who live even thousands of years later.

Second, the fact that the fact that the blood of the apostles and prophets is said to be found in the great city cannot be taken to indicate Rome, Italy either. The simple reason for this is that not all of the New Testament martyrs were killed in the city of Rome, Italy. Certainly some did, and perhaps some notable ones at that. But many others did not. Acts 7:59 records that the stoning of Stephen the first martyr occurred in Jerusalem.

Likewise, Matthew 23:37 identifies Jerusalem and not Rome, Italy as the city that stones the prophets and apostles. (We are not suggesting that Jerusalem is the city that is in view in Revelation 17 and 18.) In the English translation we only see the word prophets, but in the Greek the word "apostles" is there, too.

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

The phrase translated as "them which are sent" is the single Greek word "apostello." It is the verb form from which we get the word apostle, which in the Greek is the word "apostolos." The literal translation of "apostle" is "sent one."

This second passage, Matthew 23:37 is significant in this respect for a second reason. In it we see that the term apostles is not used exclusively in the New Testament to refer to the 12 Apostles, but can be more broadly applied to refer to anyone who comes bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Matthew 23:37 is not the only passage that deals with this.

Philippians 2:25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.

2 Corinthians 8:23 Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.

Acts 14:14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out,

Revelation 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

In each of the four verses above we see that someone other than the twelve apostles is referred to in the New Testament as an apostle. In Philippians 2:25, Epaphroditus is called a messenger. The Greek word for messenger is "apostolos." In 2 Corinthians 8:23 the term messenger (again "apostolos") is used to refer to Titus and possibly Timothy and Silas. In Acts 14:14 Barnabus is clearly placed alongside Paul as an apostle. And in Revelation 2:2 we see that the church of Ephesus is commended for testing those who claimed to be apostles but were not. Unless the test that the Ephesian church used was to clarify if they were one of the 12 apostles then Revelation 2:2 is further proof that the New Testament does not reserve the term apostle exclusively to the 12 Apostles.

Further doubt that Revelation 18:20 is limited to the 12 Apostles comes in two forms. First, there are a total of 8 times in the New Testament that apostles and prophets are coupled together as we see them in this passage. Of these 8 times, there are two occurrences, which cannot be limited solely to first century persons. These two instances are in Luke 11:49 and 2 Peter 3:2.

Luke 11:47 Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. 48 Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. 49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: 50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

2 Peter 3:2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

In both of these passages the prophets that are in view are clearly Old Testament personalities. Therefore when we see apostles and prophets coupled together in Revelation 18:20 we cannot assume an exclusively first century group is being indicated. All of these passages point out that the blood of those who died in previous times, even thousands of years in the past can be blamed on those who were not around at the time. This being the case there is little compulsion to demand that Revelation 18:20 is speaking of only the deaths of the first century apostles and prophets. Therefore it is not necessary to conclude that Babylon is Rome, Italy simply because the blood of many first century martyrs can be blamed on Rome, Italy.

There is one last indicator that solely first century persons are not in view in Revelation 18:20. In the other two passages, Revelation 17:6 and 18:24, we see that these people are referred to in broader terms for God's people. Revelation 17:6 refers to this group as the saints and martyrs of Jesus. Revelation 18:24 refers to them as the prophets and saints and all who were slain upon the earth. So, unless these three verses are referring to 3 distinctly different groups it is obvious that the group that is in view is believers general and cannot be limited to only those of the first century.

This being case there is no reason to assume that the apostles that are referred to in Revelation 18:20 is only the apostles who lived in the first century. Since the term apostle is used more broadly it is quite possible that Revelation has in view anyone and everyone who is sent out and/or proclaims the message of the Gospel.

One final argument to be dealt with here is the conclusion that since the blood is found in Babylon that means that we must find a city in which the Apostles died. Though many saints of the first few centuries were martyred by the Roman empire and in some cases Rome, Italy there is no reason to think that this is what Revelation 18:20 is indicating.

This argument is already undermined by our previous demonstration that Revelation has more in view in these verses than first century apostles, but as we said Revelation 18:20 clarifies that this group whose blood is found IN Babylon is "ALL who were slain upon the earth." Since clearly not ALL of those who were slain upon the earth were slain IN any single city, let alone slain in Rome, we must conclude that the city, in which the blood of all these persons is found is not the location in which they were ALL literally killed, but only a city or a group of persons that are held responsible, whose actions not only condone the death of God's people in the past, but which also bring to a climax the martyrdom of God's people in the last days.

We have just dismissed the first two arguments that Babylon must be Rome, Italy. These two arguments were that 1 Peter 5:13 is a precedent that the early church referred to Rome, Italy as Babylon. The second was that Revelation 17:6 and 18:20, 24 indicated Rome since this was the empire and city that was responsible for the deaths of the 12 Apostles.


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