Babylon, the Mother of Harlots: Time To Come Out!
In the Bible, Babylon is not only an historical empire ruled by Nebuchadnezzar, but it is also a symbolic representative of Satan’s kingdom – the mother of prostitutes:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH
(Revelation 17:5 NIV84).
The Bible goes on to describe the depravity and corruption of Babylon, how its influence is so great that even God’s people are caught up in it – but that God calls them out:
Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.
Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (Revelation 18:2–4 NIV84).
Why is Babylon, out of all the nations mentioned in the Bible, chosen to represent the mother of harlots, the queen of corruption, the progenitor of this end-time power that wars against God’s people?
The central theme of the Old Testament is the coming Messiah. After Adam sinned, God promised that the Messiah, the Seed of the woman, would crush the serpent and save us (Genesis 3). The entire Old Testament is focused on this battle between God’s agencies working to bring the Messiah through Israel and Satan’s agencies working to prevent it. This is why we don’t have a Bible account of what was happening in China or South America, not because God doesn’t love those people, but because Jesus wasn’t going to be born through those families.
Within this framework, various nations come to our attention as they become part of this Bible story arc – that is, as they interact with Israel. Babylon, and the other kingdoms we read about in Scripture, are highlighted because they are used by Satan to try to destroy the people through whom God would bring Jesus.
But why is Babylon specifically chosen as a symbolic representation of the detestable end-time system noted in Revelation? We see in history that other nations warred against Israel – the Hittites, Philistines, Assyrians, and Egyptians are just a few. Indeed, in Bible symbolism, Egypt is also used to represent one of Satan’s agencies (Revelation 11:8). So why isn’t Egypt the mother of harlots? Both Egypt and Babylon held the Hebrews as slaves. God delivered the Hebrews from the bondage of both. Why then is Babylon and not Egypt the mother of harlots? Because Egypt is different from Babylon in a specific way, which reveals why Babylon so accurately represents the end-time harlot and her daughters.
What is a harlot in Bible symbolism? It is an unfaithful woman who defiles herself spiritually with other lovers. A pure woman represents the righteous – the bride of Christ – but a harlot represents the betrayal of that relationship, an adulterer.
Think of what is represented by what a harlot does. (I am not trying to be unnecessarily graphic, but I do want you to consider the metaphor and what it represents.) The harlot is intimate with men who are not her spouse. She lets others, not her husband, enter her and deposit their seed. Thus, the harlot represents those people who are intimate with gods other than Jesus and who let seeds of lies and falsehoods about God into their hearts, all the while purporting to be loyal to Jesus.
Understanding the symbolism of the harlot, why is Babylon and not Egypt the mother of harlots? Egypt was led by Pharaoh, who denied God’s existence: “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2 NIV84).
But Babylon was led by Nebuchadnezzar, who – while he didn’t initially know God – later accepted Him.
Now consider the sin of adultery: Can you commit adultery against someone you have never known? For instance, can you cheat on your spouse if you were never married? Thus, Egypt doesn’t represent a harlot – those who accept Jesus but betray Him. Instead, Egypt represents those who never knew God, those who deny Him. Egypt represents the paganist, evolutionist, secularist, communist, etc.
Babylon represents those who accept God, the Christian, but they betray Him by allowing Satan’s seed, or lies about God, into their heart. How?
What else is unique about Babylon compared to other nations of the world that attacked Israel and that perfectly reveals Satan’s false worldly systems?
Of the various nations that warred against Israel, Babylon was the first to create a legal code, the Code of Hammurabi. In other words, Babylon is the first of these abusing nations to most accurately represent Satan’s imposed-law methods and coercive legal government. It is this rule of law methodology, enforcement by the state, that the entire world has drunk and become intoxicated upon, such that the world believes the way to righteousness or justice is through the enforcement of the right legal code. This imposed-law worldview as a means of justice is the wine that intoxicates the world. And the Code of Hammurabi was a law enacted at the behest or with the authority of their god – in other words, the idea that this is how God operates, that it is by God’s will, and that it is enforced through His power and consent. “In God we trust!” And when Nebuchadnezzar accepted that Daniel’s God was indeed God, he immediately passed imposed laws to kill anyone who spoke badly against God (Daniel 3:29).
Babylon is the mother of all the harlots and intoxicates the entire world on its wine that imposed law is the way to justice. And all the nations of the world accept her “seed,” her ideas about law and justice, and commit adultery with her.
Wine is a perfect metaphor. Why? Because alcohol confuses the thinking, impairing judgment all the while making people feel good. The imposed-law methods of Satan, with its coercive enforcement, is the wine people ingest that confuses the thinking, impairing the judgment while making people feel good.
So, Babylon represents those who claim to worship God but betray the Creator God and instead give their love, affection, and hearts to a deity who functions like an imperial dictator, one who makes up rules like humans do and uses power to inflict punishment for sin, a god who requires legal payments to atone for sin. This false view will ultimately lead to the formation of the beast of Revelation, which will seek various forms of “justice” through human governments.
In his book The Subversion of Christianity, Jacques Ellul describes the process of how Christianity became subverted. He details the history of the church betraying the gospel of Jesus transforming hearts for a legal code that punished bad moral behavior.
The popes use laws to fight the corruption of the clergy … the church’s reaction to the encounter with immorality, its immense attempt to enforce law and morality, and its reply to loose conduct in the ethical fields is closely connected with the error of confusing the church and society. … The perversion, then, was that of making the gospel into law … the mistake was dealing with these on the moral and legal plane instead of following the example of Paul, who always works through the moral question to the spiritual question, gets back to the essence of the revelation in Christ, and from this derives some models of conduct that are consistent with faith and love. The church did not do this. It thus set itself on the same level as the world and treated moral matters on the moral plane (p. 88, 89).
He is saying that the gospel of Jesus deals with the corrupt hearts of people to actually transform hearts and minds, which resolves the sin problem and all injustice. But the church instead betrayed its trust by accepting the lie that God’s law is like human law, advancing a system of moral justice through more law and legal enforcement.
Catholic Christianity becomes the state religion and an exchange takes place: the church is invested with political power, and it invests the emperor with religious power. … We have to say very forcefully that we see here the perversion of revelation by participation in politics, by the seeking of power. The church lets itself be seduced, invaded, dominated by the ease with which it can now spread the gospel by force (another force than that of God) and use its influence to make the state, too, Christian. It is great acquiescence [acceptance] to the temptation Jesus himself resisted, for when Satan offers to give him all the kingdoms of earth, Jesus refuses, but the church accepts, not realizing from whom it is receiving the kingdoms. … Christianity became the state religion. … It is frightening to see how easily the church accepts all this. Hardly had it emerged from persecution before it itself began to persecute. … The church is a political power but it is always at the service of the political power that is either in place or in the course of being installed. …
It will be republican under a republic as it is monarchist under a monarchy. Irrefutable theological arguments are always found. A monarchical regime reflects the monarchical unity of God. A republic reflects the people that God elects for himself on earth. Democracy shows that God associates himself with the will of the peoples. The tradition was already well established when in the sixth century the idea was formulated that the acts of God in history were performed through the Franks. The church could then become National Socialists (the German Christians) when Hitler came to power. It could become communist (with notorious figures like Berecski and Hromadka) in communist countries. Each time it develops a theological argument to show that the power that has been set up is good. … Once the church is ready to associate with instituted power it is obliged to associate with all and sundry forms of the state. … When the church becomes socialist in the support of a socialist regime, it may stress the theological themes of poverty and justice. …
The church’s fault is to be found in the process of justifying political power and action (p.124–126).
Do you see the historical progression away from design law – away from truth, love, and freedom being restored in the heart through trust in God – to a system of imposed law, with rules and morality codes enforced externally? This is Satan’s world, Satan’s system of imposed law, and the church embraces it and teaches it as if it were God’s heavenly kingdom, and all the world now embraces this method and commits adultery with her.
Babylon, the first nation interacting with Israel and enacting a legal code, perfectly represents the mother of harlots. And all the religions and nations of the world that embrace the imposed-law lie and teach that the God of heaven operates this way (imposes laws and inflicts punishments) are the daughters of this harlot – and in doing so, they betray their trust to God. They have accepted the seeds of Satan into their hearts.
Egypt represents Satan’s other system, the system of godlessness, the people and states that deny God but also use imposed-law methods. They are also intoxicated on the wine of Babylon, the false legal views of how to achieve justice, but they have never known or claimed to know God and, thus, are not represented as a harlot. (These two opposing forces of Satan are also represented by the kings of the north and south in Daniel 11 – if you haven’t read my blog on this, I encourage you to do so.)
Thus, in Bible symbolism, Babylon represents religious imperialism, the false god-construct of imposed law, and Egypt represents godlessness, evolutionism, secularism, communism, and paganism. Both Babylon (the religious right) and Egypt (the liberal left) are part of Satan’s kingdom. Satan pits these two systems against each other and tricks people into joining one or the other and to seek their view of justice through political and national powers and more imposed laws – but both systems are part of Satan’s kingdom of imposed law and coercive enforcement.
God’s people are called out of Babylon. We are to leave the systems of imposed laws and imposed penalties, to stop seeking to achieve social justice through more laws, more rules, and more punishments. We are to seek justice by loving every person as God loves us them, to give glory to God by practicing His methods in our lives, because the hour in human history has come for people to make a right judgment about God, for people to worship Him as the Creator who made the heavens and earth and sea and whose laws are design laws, not imposed Babylonian-like rules.
People of God, come out of Babylon!
Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, international speaker, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association. He is President and Founder of Come and Reason Ministries and has served as President of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.