The woman sitting on the waters, the beast and the mountains, has a name and her name is Babylon the Great:
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth. Rev. 17:4, 5.
The Bible is structured on type and antitype, repeat and enlarge and precept upon precept (see Isa. 28:10). Therefore, when we see a word like ‘Babylon’ used in New Testament prophecy, we should be alerted to the necessity of examining what the word applies to and how it is used in its original context. Therefore, the ‘mystery’ of Babylon the Great begins with the Tower of Babel.
The Tower of Babel
The first type, pointing forward to the antitype Babylon the Great, is the Tower of Babel. The popular understanding of the Tower of Babel, is that the people were so afraid of another flood, that they sought to protect themselves from rising water, by building a tower that would reach into heaven itself. However, the physical safety angle is just the cover story. Inspiration uncovers some of the ‘mystery’ associated with the building of the tower:
For a time, the descendants of Noah continued to dwell among the mountains where the ark had rested. As their numbers increased, apostasy soon led to division. Those who desired to forget their Creator and to cast off the restraint of His law felt a constant annoyance from the teaching and example of their God-fearing associates, and after a time they decided to separate from the worshipers of God. Accordingly, they journeyed to the plain of Shinar, on the banks of the river Euphrates. They were attracted by the beauty of the situation and the fertility of the soil, and upon this plain they determined to make their home. Here they decided to build a city, and in it a tower of such stupendous height as should render it the wonder of the world. These enterprises were designed to prevent the people from scattering abroad in colonies. God had directed men to disperse throughout the earth, to replenish and subdue it; but these Babel builders determined to keep their community united in one body, and to found a monarchy that should eventually embrace the whole earth. Thus, their city would become the metropolis of a universal empire; its glory would command the admiration and homage of the world and render the founders illustrious. The magnificent tower, reaching to the heavens, was intended to stand as a monument of the power and wisdom of its builders, perpetuating their fame to the latest generations. The dwellers on the plain of Shinar disbelieved God’s covenant that He would not again bring a flood upon the earth. Many of them denied the existence of God and attributed the Flood to the operation of natural causes. Others believed in a Supreme Being, and that it was He who had destroyed the antediluvian world; and their hearts, like that of Cain, rose up in rebellion against Him. One object before them in the erection of the tower was to secure their own safety in case of another deluge. By carrying the structure to a much greater height than was reached by the waters of the Flood, they thought to place themselves beyond all possibility of danger. And as they would be able to ascend to the region of the clouds, they hoped to ascertain the cause of the Flood. The whole undertaking was designed to exalt still further the pride of its projectors and to turn the minds of future generations away from God and lead them into idolatry. Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 118, 119.
The motivation for building the Tower of Babel, was to establish a one world government, for the purpose of defying God by leading the people of the world into the practise of idolatry. When God thwarted their plans by confusing their language, the enterprise turned into ‘babel’ (confusion). Thus, the core meaning of the word Babylon is ‘confusion’ (see Gen. 11:7). As a consequence of the confusion, the people dispersed and founded separate nations throughout the earth. However, the Babylonian ideology went with them and manifested itself in different forms of paganism (all based on idolatry) throughout the world. In addition, the original purpose of the Tower was never forgotten and it has manifested itself in the pursuit of empire building ever since. This ‘spirit’ of empire building and world government will succeed in the last days for a short time. The woman riding the beast is a prophetic picture of the triumph of paganism ruling over the world, diverting the worship of the world away from God, to idols. The original purpose of the Babel builders is the type and the woman riding the beast is the antitype. This is why she is also called Babylon the Great, because we are supposed to see the woman in the light of the original Babylon which started as a Tower, and eventually became a city.
The City of Babylon
The original impulse behind the building of the tower, manifested itself again, in the same place as the original. The ancient city of Babylon became one of the first cities spoken of as an empire in the area known as Mesopotamia (between two rivers). This ancient city of Babylon was built on the waters (see Jer. 50:38; 51:13, 36, 37; Isa. 44:27). The waters of the Euphrates physically sustained the ancient city, the waters of the world are/will physically and spiritually sustain the antitypical city of Babylon.
The ancient city of Babylon created an empire, based on the waters of the Euphrates. This empire, in historical terms, did not last long. The same applies to the antitypical empire – its deadly wound is being healed – the antitypical empire will eventually succeed in creating a form of one-world government, but it too will not last long. Scripture says the final manifestation of Babylon the Great will last for “one hour” (Rev. 17:12).
Jesus told us that ‘normalcy syndrome’ would be prevalent when the end of the world would come (see Matt. 24:37-39). The people of the world would be rejoicing over the official narrative of ‘peace and safety’ being promoted through the ‘wine of her fornication’ channels (see 1 Thess. 5:3). Just as the fall of literal Babylon came suddenly during the midst of a drunken party (see Jer. 51:57; Dan. 6:25-31). The same occurs to spiritual Babylon. The modern-day Babylonians are just as drunk as their ancient counterparts, only the modern form of drunkenness does not pass in the morning with a hangover. The modern Babylonians are “drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Rev. 17:2). They are permanently drunk and cannot think straight or discern truth. And just as the literal Babylonians felt so secure within their fortress city, that they could throw a drunken celebration when they knew there was a powerful enemy camped around their walls, the modern-day Babylonians feel equally as secure and that the future belongs to them. But the false security comes crashing down with the fall of Babylon the Great:
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double. How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. Rev. 18:4-8.
The prophetic picture painted of Babylon, is one of self-satisfied smugness, right up to the very point of destruction. The people of the world are in spiritual thralldom – intoxicated with the wine of her fornication – they are rejoicing that they are “increased with goods and in need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17) – they are even worshipping the beast and the woman riding the beast. They are looking forward to a future of prosperity and peace – they are totally unaware of what is about to happen.
The Bible tells the same stories in different ways. It tells us that the post diluvian world, was hell-bent on building a world-wide empire in order to perpetuate rebellion against God, and to intoxicate the people against God with the ‘wine’ of idolatry. God thwarted this agenda by confusing the nations with diverse speech. However, the lusting after the original agenda was never extinguished. Therefore, as Satan has been able to capture the people of the world, by binding them collectively into his ‘prison planet’ biblically called Babylon the Great, the ancient agenda will be achieved for a short time – but once again God will intervene and the modern manifestation of the Tower of Babel will collapse as suddenly as the first one.