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Mother and Daughters
— In Symbol
And In Realtiy
Babylon–An Illustration of Christendom
The prophecies of Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Daniel and the Apocalypse concerning Babylon had a very
limited fulfilment upon the ancient, literal city.
Those of the Apocalypse were
written centuries after literal Babylon was laid in ruins.
Therefore, it is clear that the special reference of
all the prophets is to something of which the ancient literal
Babylon was an illustration. As the prophecies of Isaiah and
Jeremiah concerning Babylon’s downfall were accomplished upon
the literal city, it became in its downfall, as well as in its
character, an illustration of the great city to which the
Revelator points in the symbolic language of the Apocalypse
(Chapters 17 and 18), and to which chiefly the other prophets
What today is known as
Christendom is the antitype of ancient Babylon. Therefore, the
solemn warnings and predictions of the prophets against Babylon–Christendom–are
matters of deepest concern to the present generation. Though
various other symbolic names, such as Edom, Ephraim, Ariel, etc.,
are in the Scriptures applied to Christendom, the term
"Babylon" is the one most frequently used. Its
significance, confusion, is remarkably appropriate.
How do we recognize Babylon?
The Revelator intimated that it
would not be difficult to discover this great mystical city. Her
name is in her forehead—that is, she is
prominently marked. We cannot fail to see her unless we shut our
eyes and refuse to look.
"And upon her forehead was
a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of
Harlots and abominations of the earth." (Rev. 17:5)
But before looking for this Mystical Babylon,
let us first observe the typical Babylon, and then, with its
prominent features in mind, look for the antitype.
Literal City and Empire of
The name Babylon was
applied, not only to the capital city of the Babylonian empire,
but also to the empire itself. Babylon, the capital, was the most
magnificent, and probably the largest, city of the ancient world.
It was built in the form of a square on both sides of the
Euphrates river. For protection against invaders, it was
surrounded by a deep moat filled with water and inclosed within a
vast system of double walls, from thirty-two to eighty-five feet
thick, and from seventy-five to three hundred feet high. On the
summit were low towers, said to have been two hundred and fifty in
number, placed along the outer and inner edges of the wall, tower
facing tower. In these walls were a hundred brazen gates,
twenty-five on each side, corresponding to the number of streets
which intersected each other at right angles. The city was adorned
with splendid palaces and temples and the spoils of conquest.
Nebuchadnezzar was the great monarch of the
Babylonian empire. His long reign covered nearly half the period
of its existence. To him Babylon’s grandeur and military glory
were chiefly due. The city was noted for its wealth and
magnificence, which brought a corresponding moral degradation, the
sure precursor of its decline and fall. It was wholly given to
idolatry, and was full of iniquity. The people were worshipers of
Baal, to whom they offered human sacrifices. The deep degradation
of their idolatry may be understood from God’s reproof of the
Israelites when they became corrupted by contact with them. See
Jer. 7:9; 19:5.
Meaning of Name – Confusion
The name originated with the frustrating of the
plan for the great tower, called Babel (confusion), because
there God confounded human speech. Native etymology made the name Babil,
which, instead of being reproachful, and a reminder of the Lord’s
displeasure, signified to them "the gate of God."
The city of Babylon attained a position of
prominence and affluence as a capital of the great Babylonian
empire, and was called "the golden city," "the
glory of kingdoms, and the beauty of Chaldees’ excellency."
Isa. 13:19; 14:4
"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin"
Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded in the dominion by
his grandson Belshazzar. Under his reign came the collapse which
pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness always insure
and hasten. While the people, all unconscious of impending danger,
following the example of their king, were abandoning themselves to
demoralizing excesses, the Persian army, under Cyrus, stealthily
crept in through the channel of the Euphrates (from which they had
turned aside the water), massacred the revelers, and captured the
Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of that strange
handwriting on the wall —
"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin"
which Daniel had interpreted only a few hours before to mean
hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it. Thou art weighed in the
balance and art found wanting. Thy kingdom is divided and given to
the Medes and Persians." So complete was the destruction of
that great city that even its site was forgotten and was for a
long time uncertain.
Such was the typical city. Like a great
millstone cast into the sea, it was sunken centuries ago, never
again to rise. Even the memory of Babylon has become a reproach.
Now let us look for its antitype, first observing that the
Scriptures clearly point it out, and then noting the aptness of
What does a "city"
In symbolic prophecy a "city"
signifies a religious government backed by power and influence.
Thus, for instance, the "holy city, the new Jerusalem,"
is the symbol used to represent the established Kingdom of God,
the overcomers of the Gospel Church exalted and reigning in glory.
The Church is also, and in the same connection,
represented as a woman, "the bride, the Lamb’s wife,"
in power and glory, and backed by the power and authority of
Christ, her husband. "And there came unto me one of the seven
angels... saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride,
the Lamb’s wife. And he ...
showed me that great
city, the holy Jerusalem." Rev. 21:9,10
What does a "harlot"
This same method of interpretation applies to
mystical Babylon , the great ecclesiastical kingdom. "That
great city" (Rev. 17:1-6), Babylon, is described as a harlot,
a fallen woman (an apostate church — the true Church is a
virgin). Babylon is exalted to power and dominion, and backed, to
a considerable degree, by the kings of the earth, the civil
powers, which are all more or less intoxicated with her spirit and
The apostate church lost her virgin purity.
Instead of waiting, as an espoused and chaste virgin, for
exaltation with the heavenly Bridegroom, she associated herself
with the kings of the earth. The apostate church prostituted her
virgin purity — both of doctrine and character — to suit the
world’s ideas. In return she received, and now to some extent
exercises, a present dominion, in large measure by their support,
direct and indirect.
This unfaithfulness to the Lord, whose name she
claims, and to her high privilege to be the "chaste
virgin" espoused to Christ, is the occasion of the symbolic
appellation, "harlot." Her influence as a religious
empire, full of inconsistency and confusion, is symbolically
represented under the name Babylon, which, in its widest sense, as
symbolized by the Babylonian empire, we promptly recognize to be
Christendom. In its more restricted sense, as symbolized by the
ancient city, we recognize Babylon to be the nominal