In Revelation 14.8 we read of Babylon’s downfall, now in chapters 17 and 18 we read of it in detail. It’s that style of Biblical narrative again; tell something, then tell it again in more detail (Genesis 1.27 v. Genesis 2.5, for example).
1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me,
“Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery:
“Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”
6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.
We read of Babylon over 280 times in Scripture, which is second only to Jerusalem for frequency. Throughout the Bible Babylon is referenced as being a worldy place, full of selfish ambition (Genesis 11.4), and here it is represented by the great prostitute, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality. It is a place that has caused others on the earth to stumble (the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk). Worldly, selfish people and places always make others stumble.
The great prostitute, then, is the spiritual representation of Babylon, and she is seated on the beast that was full of blasphemous names, the Antichrist from 13.1.
Babylon was a place of idol worship, of false religion, and here we see that people are just intoxicated with false religion, with idol worship, and the Antichrist just loves this. The prostitute sits on the Antichrist, the spirit of idol worship and false religion finds its home in the Antichrist, and they revel together in the persecution of those faithful to Jesus (I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.)
The most interesting thing is at the very end, John says that when he saw her, he marveled greatly.
Why did he marvel?
He didn’t marvel at the pagan persecution of believers, but he marveled at the pseudo-church appearance of this abomination. Remember in chapter 13 we said that the Antichrist will be a winner, will look successful (13.4), and will even try to convince people that he has been resurrected (13.3). He will make a covenant with the rulers and kings to elevate himself further, using false religion to achieve his purposes.
All of this will look attractive, it will entice, it will wow people with wonder…but at the core Jesus will not be there.
Jesus will not be preached at this pseudo-church.
Jesus will not be the Head of this pseudo-church.
Jesus will not be glorified at this pseudo-church.
If this is convincing enough to make John marvel greatly, how much more do we need to weigh what we hear, test the spirits, and, if Jesus is not glorified through all things, if disciples are not being made of Jesus for Jesus’ glory alone, and if Jesus is not the focus, then is it a church?