Revelation 17 – Who is Mystery Babylon?

Revelation 17 – Who is Mystery Babylon? July 31, 2018

Revelation 17

Apparently, St. John forgot the rock and roll.

I mean, the sex and drugs (alcohol) are here, so where’s the rock and roll to complete the unholy trinity?

I could spend my day (and days) trying to decipher the prophetic meanings of the Beast, the Harlot, Babylon, and other apocalyptic delicacies.  But I won’t.  I want to get right to the meaning for me today.  Because I’ve already meditated on these other meanings and have come to the conclusion that Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ, first to the first century world of John’s audience, and second to the rest of history, I don’t need to dwell on exotic esoteric extrapolations.

But the Harlot surely seems to be first-century Judaism, which was the Bride of God and who was portrayed by previous prophets to be a whore.  She is the one drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs, and if we follow the symbolic logic of John we can see that the apocalyptic event he was revealing was the destruction of the Old Covenant and the revelation of the New.

The revolutionary nature of God’s transmutation of the Old into the New is John’s theme, and it is a grand one indeed.  Only such shocking, prophetic, poetic language could do justice to the enormity of the change that God was bringing upon the world in the first century.

But so enormous is the scope of John’s theme and the continuing battle of Satan and his allies against God that it reverberates down to our own day. More than reverberating, it is being perpetuated in our own day, and therefore we should look for signs of similar evil in our own lives.

Which brings me back to sex and drugs and rock and roll.

When I was a kid and we visited other people’s houses, they always had the coolest games.  They were the ones with the Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Twister, and Mystery Date.  What?  You don’t remember Mystery Date?  You don’t remember wondering whether behind the door you would find a “dream” or a “dud”?  Countless girls across America were disappointed when they had their eyes on the Dream but ended up with the Dud.

In fact, that scenario is being played out across America even as we speak.  Countless girls are dating and marrying guys who look like dreams but will end up being revealed as duds.

Even more ominously, across the globe today countless people are opening the doors of their souls and letting in Mystery Dates.  They think they’re only dating for fun but find out that who you date determines your life.

I’m no longer talking primarily about romantic dating but about the ways in which we connect ourselves with all sorts of people, places, things, and ideas that seem like harmless fun but who will seduce us away from God given a chance.  Alive and kicking here on planet Earth is Mystery Babylon, and she’s out to get you.

In John’s day, the Mediterranean world of the first century Roman Empire, Mystery Babylon looked like this: she committed fornication with the inhabitants of earth and made them drunk with the wine of her fornication.  She was arrayed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls.  In her hand was a golden cup that appeared to be the choicest wine but inside was full of abomination and filth.

But she’s changed with the times.  Just as Barbie has had to change her wardrobe and have plastic surgery, Mystery Babylon has had an extreme makeover, the better to seduce you with.  You’ve seen her before, in a supermarket in California and gyrating on your boob tube.  She announces herself to you as you stand in line at WalMart, taking the form of many women so that in the supermarket of supermarkets you can have your pick.

She floats and whispers in your head as you listen to your Ipod or TV or someone else’s.  She insinuates herself into our music so that she becomes ubiquitous.  Her voice is breathless and orgiastic, and she likes not only gold and silver but also silicon.  She is employed at the bathing suit manufacturers, insuring that no decent bathing suit will be sold in the U.S. this year, and she inhabits the “safe” chick flicks that have only a little smut and a lot of smile but secretly invite you to take a step closer into her intoxicating world.

She stands walking the avenues of the Internet, waiting to catch your eye with a pop up ad that suggests and allures.  She stands and waits because she knows that the men (and now the women) will come.  She knows that (supposedly) 50 percent of men viewed pornography within one week of attending a Promise Keepers stadium event.

She commits incredibly lewd, public acts, at least in part so that less dramatic wickedness becomes permissible.

And that’s just the sensual side of her.  She has many ways of catching a man’s (or woman’s) eye, and greed works as well as sex.  She will chain you with silky manacles or she’ll enslave you with a buffet of choice, for she knows that once you’re addicted to choice you’ll want nothing more but more.  If you don’t like your job, you can quit and look for another one.  When your toys are broken, you don’t need to fix the old ones because now there’s something shinier to buy.  Your technology is out of date and obsolete, even when it works fine for free.  Relationships, too, are fungible, and another one is always available, courtesy of Mystery Babylon.  And (just in case you didn’t know) she’s got a catalog of deities, including Christian ones, that you can choose from: just select the features you want!

If you were to transport people from previous eras (though not all) to contemporary America, “Surely”, they would think, “I am in Mystery Babylon the Mother of Harlots!”  And they’d be right, for she inhabits every age and every culture.  She is not only back there in the first century Mediterranean world but also right here and over there.

So don’t think that as you safely speculate about who Mystery Babylon may have been or who she will be, concern yourself instead with who she is and where she is.  And therefore never send to know for whom Mystery Babylon is coming: she comes for thee!

Prayer:  When the enemy comes in a’roarin’ like a flood,
Coveting the kingdom and hungering for blood,
The Lord will raise a standard up and lead His people on,
The Lord of Hosts will go before defeating every foe;
Defeating every foe.

For the Lord is our defense, Jesus defend us,
For the Lord is our defense, Jesu defend.

Some men trust in chariots, some trust in the horse,
But we will depend upon the Name of Christ our Lord,
The Lord has made my hands to war and my fingers to fight.
The Lord lays low our enemies, but He raises us upright;
He raises us upright.

For the Lord is our defense, Jesus defend us,
For the Lord is our defense, Jesu defend.

A thousand fall on my left hand, ten thousand to the right,
But He will defend us from the arrow in the night.
Protect us from the terrors of the teeth of the devourer,
Embue us with Your Spirit, Lord, emcompass us with power;
Encompass us with power.

For the Lord is our defense, Jesus defend us,
For the Lord is our defense, Jesu defend.

Amen.  (King Alfred’s War Song)

Lord God Almighty, shaper and ruler of all creatures, guide me to Thy will, to the need of my soul, better than I can myself. Steadfast my mind towards Thy will and to my soul’s need. Strengthen me against the temptations of the devil, and put far from me every unrighteousness. Shield me against my foes, seen and unseen; and teach me to do Thy will, that I may inwardly love Thee before all things with a clean mind and clean body. For Thou art my maker and my redeemer, my help, my comfort, my trust, and my hope. Praise and glory be to Thee now, ever and ever, world without end.  Amen.  (King Alfred [edited])

Points for Meditation:

  1. In what ways does Mystery Babylon offer herself to you in your life?
  2. What are some of the subtle ways that our culture is seducing you away from God?

Resolution:  I resolve to identify one area in my life where I am being seduced and vow to fast from it for a specified period of time. 


The Beast and the Woman – David Miles, used by permission of artist

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