Was Jerusalem the Woman of Revelation 17?

Biblical insight into the “last days” is growing. As historical-contextual research from the academic world continues to reach the popular level, more and more people are startled to discover that John’s Revelation is not an account of the end of the world at all, but brilliantly composed Hebrew prose concerning the violent end of the Old Covenant and the rise of an entirely New Order. A pioneering order in the shape of a covenant kingdom, pictured as a heavenly city with a new government, a new culture and a new economy to go along with a brand new kind of citizen.

But, for the new wine of these New Covenant spiritual realities to flow freely — as foreshadowed by Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael — the old wineskin would first have to be removed, since,

“At that time, the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.” — Galatians 4:29

Whatever we may believe about apocalyptic prophecy, it cannot be denied that the fearful and dramatic end of Jerusalem and her temple was the most terrifying event of the century in which the New Testament was written— just as the destruction of her earlier incarnation was, to the Jewish people, the most terrifying event of the century inhabited by Jeremiah, Ezekiel et al. And so, here in Revelation we see a series of catastrophic visions woven together, often in sevens, then repeated from differing angles in ornate Hebraic chiasms signifying the pouring out of covenantal wrath on a corrupted system that had been predicted to end as far back as Moses (Deu 30–32).

Then, in Revelation 17, the action seems to pause, and in a sort of interlude, an angel carries John away into a wilderness. There, he spies a woman clad in luxurious garb sitting atop a fearsome scarlet creature. On the woman’s forehead a name is written, which John calls a mysterion — information that can only be known by revelation from God:

BABYLON THE GREAT

THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS

AND THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH

 

A little later, the angel reveals that this woman represents “the great city that holds reign over the kings of the earth.” But who is she, and what is all of this supposed to mean?

I believe that this female figure, spiritually named Babylon, is none other than Jerusalem itself — not the modern, bifurcated city of the nation of Israel, but the Jerusalem which sat amidst seven hills in the Roman province of Judea prior to AD 70. The great capital around which all Jewish political, economic and religious life had revolved for centuries.

In this and two sequel articles, I will attempt to show that there are at least eleven good reasons to believe this is true.

1. BABEL THE CORRUPT

“Babylon”, in 17:5 is the culmination of a progression that has so far included “the holy city”“Sodom” and “Egypt”. Now, she has reached the lowest point in her degradation, for Babylon was once Babel, the first and chief city of Nimrod, the first biblically recorded tyrant king. The city, of course, was host to the infamous tower (really a ziggurat, or temple) devoted to the idolatrous worship of the cosmos. This is a fitting allusion to the condition of Jerusalem’s own temple, which in the centuries since Nehemiah had not only been infested by the Greek and Roman worship of gods and emperors (a la Romans 1:23), but had seen a gross corruption of the priesthood to a degree that would have made Aaron blush. The tyrannical influence of Herod the Great and his kin, the greed of the Roman prefects, the conniving of the Sadducee Annas and his sons, and later, the endless parade of politically motivated appointments and assassinations thoroughly corrupted the city’s ruling theocracy.

2. CAPTIVE IN SPIRIT

As the Babylonian empire of old had done in the natural, the cult system which infused Jerusalem’s second temple had taken the Jewish people spiritually captive. This is clearly seen in Jesus’ impassioned invective in Matthew 23. This was an ironic twist that no Jewish reader could have ignored, for just as the Jerusalem of Solomon’s first temple had long ago been destroyed by Babylon’s armies, so once-mighty Babylon had met her demise in a later foreign invasion. The two becoming synonymous would have been an alarming, but rational prospect from a prophetic perspective.

Remember also that Daniel had once urged his trio of friends to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning another mysterion— Nebuchadnezzar’s dream — so that they might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. In the same way, the purpose of John’s apocalyptic letter was that whoever read it would be blessed, i.e. its interpretation would literally rescue believers from being killed alongside the “wise” men of Jerusalem.

Note that although it was Jerusalem in danger, Revelation was addressed to seven churches in other cities, as it was vital that Jews of the dispersion, who still made up the majority of the Christian population, avoided returning to the city when things began to “hit the fan”. It is entirely possible that, surrounded by foreign culture, these churches were more likely to have forgotten or misunderstood Christ’s prophetic warnings about the trouble to come.

3. THE GREAT CITY AND THE CROSS

The descriptor “great city” is first identified in Rev. 11:8 as the place where “their Lord was crucified.” Later, the same phrase is used of Babylon ten times. The simplest and most obvious explanation is that this is a reference to Jesus’ death on the hill of Golgotha outside of Jerusalem. Furthermore, the term “great city” would have been immediately recognizable from the prophet Jeremiah’s description of Jerusalem, centuries earlier:

“People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?’ And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.’ ”

This has been Part 1 of a 3 part series on the Book of Revelation. Click HERE for Part Two. As always, I welcome any questions or comments on any of these points. Let’s get the word out about an eschatology that frees, if you like this, please share!

 

GUEST BLOG

This was a guest blog from my friend Colin MacIntyre.

 

Check out his website at Bettercovenant.cards

 

Check out his Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bettercovenantcards/

 

See my review of his Better Covenant Cards at https://www.facebook.com/jahardgrave/videos/1455522107901614/

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