Babylon in the Book of Revelation
Multiple Theories, Little Agreement
The identity of Babylon in the book of Revelation has caused many commentators to question whether or not Babylon was Rome or if Babylon would be literally a restoration of the Babylon of the ancient days. No commentary that we are aware of ever aligns the United States of America as being identified with Babylon.
The Liberty Bible Commentary, Volume II, does an in-depth study of the subject of the identity of Babylon. This study begins with Revelation chapter 14, verse 8:
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.
Interpreters differ on the identity of this Babylon. R. H. Charles maintains that the fall of Rome is announced. Scott holds: “But what is before us now is the mystic Babylon, that huge system of spiritual adultery and corruption which holds sway over the whole prophetic scene. It is scarcely possible to conceive of a huge system of wickedness eagerly embraced by the nations once called Christian. It will nevertheless be so. Babylon (in the book of Revelation) is the full development of the state of things under the Thyatiran condition of the Church (Chapter 2:18-23).
R. C. H. Lenski (The Interpretation of Saint John’s Revelation, page 432) stated, “Babylon, the antichristian world city or empire, which is named ‘Babylon The Great’ after the Old Testament Babylon … the great enemy of Israel, Jerusalem, Zion. The Preterists regard Babylon as a reference to pagan Rome alone; the historical interpreters as a reference to papal Rome; the futurists as a reference to the capital of the antichristian who is yet to come, either Rome or Jerusalem. Babylon… is the entire antichristian empire throughout the whole New Testament Era. Both pagan and also papal Rome would then be included.” (Liberty Bible Commentary, Volume II, page 827.)
And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and the great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. Revelation 16:19
The identity of the city of Babylon causes commentators to be divided. One group of commentators equate the great city and Babylon with Jerusalem, others with Rome (whether political, religious, or papal). When reliable expositors differ so widely, it is presumptuous to be dogmatic.
In his excellent commentary on the Book of Revelation, Dr. J. Vernon McGee writes, “In chapters 17 and 18 two Babylons are brought before us. The Babylon of chapter 17 is ecclesiastical. The Babylon of chapter 18 is economic. The first is religious – the apostate church. The second is political and commercial.” (The King is Coming, Dr. H. L. Willmington, page 104.)