“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
“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” (Rev. 14:8).
This is the first place in the Revelation where the name Babylon makes its entrance. The Babylon that is introduced in this place has her fall actually described a few chapters later, in chapter 18. A great deal of ink has been spilled in trying to identify this Babylon, and both here and in the sections that follow I will hazard my reasons for supposing Babylon to be Jerusalem—the city doomed to destruction throughout the course of this entire book.
We have already encountered the dragon, who is Satan, the beast from the sea, who is Rome, and the land beast, who is the corrupt leadership of the Jews. My understanding of this is that the image of the great harlot, the wanton Babylon, is this third group under a different image. The corruptocrats ruling in Jerusalem had a cozy relationship with Rome that they did not want threatened (John 11:48), and we are told in the description that follows that the woman rides on the back of the seven-headed beast, who is Rome. The establishment in Jerusalem was dependent upon Rome.
If we look at both the parallels and contrasts here, the picture comes into focus. The entire book is about the rivalry of two women, pictured for us in Scripture in two different ways. In Galatians, they are Hagar and Sarah (Gal. 4:24). In this place they are the unfaithful wife, given over to harlotry, and the faithful and virginal bride, adorned for her husband. They are both described as Jerusalem, they are both described under the image of the holy city—but one of them is in fact an unholy city.
“Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, Which are called by the name of Israel, And are come forth out of the waters of Judah, Which swear by the name of the Lord, And make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness. For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; The Lord of hosts is his name” (Is. 48:1–2).
But another image is given to us by the prophet Isaiah as well.
“Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; Put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: For henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean” (Is. 52:1).
The nation of Israel was supposed to be a testimony to the nations, but they had missed their calling. Instead of serving as a called nation, showing all the nations how God dealt with men, they took their chosen status as meaning what God had said it did not mean. God had not chosen them because they were so wonderful. “The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people” (Deut. 7:7).
Instead of revealing God’s goodness to the nations, Israel had fallen away and become a great harlot. She “made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” The great court outside the Temple sanctuary was called the Court of the Gentiles, and it was reserved for them to worship God. But the corrupt oligarchy in Jerusalem had filled that court up with sacrificial animals which represented the Jews, and squeezed out the Gentiles. Jesus mentions this as He cleansed the Temple. “And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17).
Jerusalem was a great city, but this just contributed to the greatness of her fall.