Mystery Babylon Study – Part 2 – Rev 17: 4-6
This is part two of our multi week study of Mystery Babylon, where we will be going verse by verse through Revelation chapter 17-18If you have not seen part one yet I highly recommend watching or listening to this study in chronological order as each one will build upon the other. There should be a link wherever you found this video or podcast to the previous study in the notes that accompany it.
Rev 17:4 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:
Ok this is a loaded verse and there is a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
Arrayed in purple and scarlet colour: This particular phrase purple and scarlet occurs 29 times in the Old Testament, the entire old testament phrase is usually “blue purple scarlet and fine twisted linen” so here we have a notable lack of blue which is usually included, which we will talk about later.
An example of its usage is in Exodus 26:1
Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them. – Exo 26:1
These curtains of the temple were by no means the only things that were suppose to consist of blue purple and scarlet and fine linen, the same phrase was used in relation to the following items:
The Curtains of the tabernacle:
The veil of the temple
The hanging for the door of the tent with lampstands
The hanging for the gate of the court
Cloths of service
The Girdle of the high priest
The ephod of the high priest
The breastplate of the high priest
The stitched pomegranates on the high priests garments
Almost everything that was cloth in the service of the temple was to be made out of these colors.
But what will be of particular interest to us as we progress is the relationship of the clothes of MB to the clothes of the high priest.
Notice though there is a difference between what was said of the clothing of mystery Babylon:
“And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, “
And the clothing of the high priest and the various items associated with temple worship.
“Blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen”
At first it would seem that fine linen is not mentioned in relationship to Mystery Babylon, but in a later verse it actually does mention that fine linen is included as well.
And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! – Rev 18:16
So the only difference between the clothing of mystery Babylon and the clothing of the high priest is the color blue. This could be due to the significance that the bible put on the color blue in relation to its symbolism of being in a right standing with God and his commandments:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. – Num 15:38-40
The ark of the covenant in the Tabernacle was also covered with blue cloth (Numbers 4:5-7; 11-13). The robe of the High Priest was also blue.
I am suggesting that MB is wearing the clothing of a harlot high priest that is promoting the worship, not of the true god in temple service, but of the antichrist who also will make use of the temple.
This interpretation is greatly strengthened when we get to the next verse, about the name on the woman’s forehead and we will see the connection to the high priest and the name that was on his forehead. But for now let’s continue on with the present verse.
Decked with gold and precious stones and pearls:
Decked is really the key word here. It is different than the word “arrayed,” “Decked “has more to do with jewels , one definition says that it means: “To bring an ornament upon”
Decked is not a very common word in the Old Testament, in fact only used 10 times.
The overall picture of its use in the Old Testament is God saying that He decked Jerusalem with precious jewels when she was in her youth, but as she began to commit adultery, by the worship of pagan gods, she then begins to deck herself in a different manner. For example here in the first part of Ezekiel 16 we see how God decked her in her proverbial youth:
I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. – Eze 16:11-15
Then later, when Jerusalem becomes a prostitute, she decks herself a different way:
Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them, And tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them. Eze 16:17-18
We see another example of this in Ezekiel 23:40
And furthermore, that ye have sent for men to come from far, unto whom a messenger was sent; and, lo, they came: for whom thou didst wash thyself, paintedst thy eyes, and deckedst thyself with ornaments – Eze 23:40
And Hosea 2:13
And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD. – Hos 2:13
But one of the most provocative uses of the word “decked” in relation to our verse in Revelation 17:4 is found in Jer 4:29-30 where speaking of the city of Jerusalem it says:
The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks: every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein. And when thou art spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; thy lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life. – Jer 4:29-30
The connections to Mystery Babylon here should be quite obvious, it is also interesting to note that her lover will despise her and take her life. And if you remember from last week, that is exactly what the beast that Mystery Babylon rides, which she calls her king and her husband, will do, he will despise her and turn on her and kill her.
One interesting thing is the mention of pearls in this verse. I found this reference somewhat curious as there is only one mention of Pearls in the OT, in fact only 8 references in the entire bible, and half of those are in the book of Revelation. Three of the other references are using pearls as an example of something valuable, like “the pearl of great price” or “don’t throw your pearls before swine.” The only pearl reference that is left is also one that I think is applicable to this verse. it is found in 1 Timothy 2:9:
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; – 1Ti 2:9
Here being decked with pearls is used as the opposite of modest clothing, That would seem to fit the description of the Mystery Babylon, but there may be other significance to it that I am not aware.
having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
The only other time this phrase “golden cup” appears in the bible that I know of is in Jer 51:7 where Im sure it is not a coincidence that the entire chapter is talking about the actual fall of Babylon the city, which I believe is a prefiguration of mystery Babylon’s fall. Many parallels can be seen between these two chapters if you read them carefully, this phrase golden cup is certainly one of them. The verse reads:
Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD’S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad. – Jer 51:7
Notice here also that the nations are drunk with the wine in the cup, it makes them mad, this is a direct parallel to Revelation 17:2 which says:
With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. – Rev 17:2
It is often missed ,and I think very important ,that what is in the cup is her own sin, her own idolatry and the nations are made drunk by it.
I think that Revelation 18:3 gives us more detail on this:
For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. – Rev 18:3
This phrase “wine of the wrath of her fornication “ as the KJV has it is kind of an odd way to put it, I mean , does fornication even have wrath? The ESV I think captures the sense of this verse when it says:
(ESV) For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her [fornication]
What I’m suggesting here is that she is so passionately promoting the antichrist as her messiah, as her god, that it entices the world to join her in her fornication, they also commit this abomination themselves, but it is because of her own fierce promotion of this idolatry that the world joins her in this sin of worship of the antichrist. It is also in this sense that she fulfills the role of a idolatrous high priest.
Rev 18:4 expands on this idea that her own sin is causing others to sin:
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. – Rev 18:4
Rev 17:5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
The first thing I want to focus in on is this phrase upon her forehead: There are two notable things about foreheads in the Old Testament that are going to be important: The first is in relation to the high priests uniform. In Exodus 28 it is discussing the headband of the high priest, and it says:
And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. And it shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. – Exo 28:36-38
This is a very interesting bit of information considering the connection to the high priests garments we have already seen.
The High Priest had a gold plate that covered his forehead with the words Holiness to the Lord engraved on it.
This is compared with Mystery Babylon, the harlot high priest, who has on her forehead the words:
MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
This brings us to the another usage of foreheads in the OT, which I think is also at play here:
Jer 3:3 Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.
There is a refusal to be ashamed of her idolatry here, which is exemplified in Mystery Babylon by the proud boasting of her abominations written on her forehead.
This should not be understood ,I don’t think, as her knowing that she is worshipping and promoting the antichrist, because she does say that she is not a widow, and she says she sits as a queen. I think it just means that her promotion of the Antichrist as Messiah will be very bold and out in the open, as the verse of the ESV said “the passion of her [fornication]” is what will intoxicate the masses.
Notice the comma in the king James, as in: “Mystery, Babylon” the name is not a proper name Mystery Babylon, as I have been using it, and probably will continue to use it, but rather the mystery here is signifying that there is something secret about the name Babylon the great. other translations reflect this a little better I think:
(The Geneva Bible) And in her forehead was a name written, A mysterie, that great Babylon, that mother of whoredomes, and abominations of the earth.
(ESV) And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”
(ISV) On her forehead was written a secret name: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND DETESTABLE THINGS OF THE EARTH
The word in Greek “Mystery” is:
mustērion’ It means: a secret or “mystery” (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites, in other words it’s a secret that can be discovered.
This alone is a strong argument against her being the literal city Babylon that fact that the name Babylon is a mystery.
This idea of giving cites spiritual names that depend on the type of characteristics they exhibit or have exhibited is demonstrated earlier in the book of Revelation when it calls Jerusalem by two “spiritual” names, it says, speaking of the two witnesses:
And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. – Rev 11:8
later on we will look more in depth at this verse, but now I only want to call your attention to some of the other spiritual names given to Jerusalem here. They are Sodom and Egypt, both cities known inter-biblically for their various sins and when Jerusalem acts like one of these notorious cites The bible calls them by that name.
The next word in this title is BABYLON
Is there any indication in scripture of Jerusalem being called Babylon?
I think we see this exact thing in 1 Peter 5:12-13:
By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. – 1Pe 5:12-13
In addition to Jerusalem this verse is also argued as referencing Rome as well as to the literal city of Babylon.
It should be noted that there are strong religious motives for making Peter be referencing Rome here.
The catholic church literally needs Peter to have been the first bishop of Rome. This is part of one of the most important of all catholic doctrine, The entire concept of the papacy relies on this historical claim of Peter being in rome and serving as its bishop, therby being the first pope. and because of the lack of any biblical evidence for Peter even visiting Rome, and therefore lack biblical support for the papacy, this verse has been used to support the idea That Peter did go to Rome, and that he called it Babylon.
A smaller minority argue that Peter actually was in the literal city of Babylon, which was described by Pliny and Josephus as a “wilderness” even by Peter’s time. And According to Josephus, all Jews had been expelled from the country of Babylonia.
Those that argue for the literal Babylon here would say that there was a very small remnant of people still there and that Peter must have taken a missions trip there.
The case for Peter being in Jerusalem, and thereby referring to Jerusalem as Babylon here is much stronger, and is the only argument with any biblical support.
1 – Peter’s residence can firmly be established as him living in Jerusalem:
1a – After the great persecution the church was scattered, but the apostles (i.e. Peter) stayed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).
1b – When Philip preached in Samaria, the apostles at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to them. Thus Peter must have been living there (Acts 8:14).
1c – When Herod Agrippa imprisoned Peter, he was in Jerusalem (Acts 12:1-4).
1d – Three years after his conversion, Paul goes to Jerusalem to see Peter and even abides with him there. Therefore, Peter must have lived there (Galatians 1:18).
1e – Fourteen years after his conversion, Paul again returns to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. Peter is there again and even named as a “pillar” in the church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1, 9).
1f – Paul tells us that Peter was intimidated by “Jews from James (i.e. Jerusalem)”. Surely this would be because Peter’s residence was there and he had to live with these people (Galatians 2:11,12).
1g – In the scripture in question (1 Peter 5:13), who is Marcus? If it is a reference to John Mark then we presumably know that his original residence was in Jerusalem in the house of his mother. So if Marcus is John Mark, then the “church” would also be at Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).
Peter did some evangelical traveling with his wife as is stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:5 and therefore could have visited Babylon, but where he visited is left to our imaginations.
On this phrase THE GREAT
The bible commentator Adam Clark said:
“This woman is also called Babylon the Great; she is the exact antitype of the ancient Babylon in her idolatry and cruelty, but the ancient city called Babylon is only a drawing of her in miniature. This is indeed Babylon The Great. “ – Clark
MOTHER OF HARLOTS
We have already discussed the lack of the word all here, as in the “mother of all harlots”, some try to make this phrase more than the text makes of it. This city is the mother of harlots, that is that it has inhabitants that are harlots.
This is one of the most consistent idioms in scripture, that cites have children, which are often referred to as daughters or children.
One example we have already seen in the previous study: Was with Jesus when, on the road to be crucified says this:
But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Luk 23:28-29
In Isaiah 4:4 when speaking of the institution of the millennial kingdom
It says this:
When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning. – Isa 4:4
A side note here is that this purging of Jerusalem in the context of Isaiah 4 happens just before the millennial reign, exactly the place that Mystery Babylon is judged in Rev 16-19, this is strong support for an eschatological double fulfillment of the judgments of Jerusalem.
Yet another example of the inhabitants of a city being referred to as children of that city can be found in another appropriate verse which we looked at last week.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; – Mat 23:37-38
Of this phrase: ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
We see more parallels to Jerusalem here in Jeremiah 6 where it says:
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time I punish them, They shall be cast down,” says the LORD. – Jer 6:15
Abominations are used pretty consistently in scripture as things which are absolutely detestable to the LORD, but especially that of grievous idolatry and false worship. Of note here is the so called “Abomination of Desolation” spoken of by Daniel, Jesus, and Paul when the Antichrist declares himself to be God in the temple. This would be the ultimate abomination, one that will ultimately involve the entire world.
Rev 17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
This verse is one that is often used to prove that the woman is Rome, Islam, or even an allegorical pagan system from time immemorial.
This verse is simply talking about persecution; the woman here kills a lot of Christians. The commentators always try to prove that there version of Mystery Babylon has killed more than the other candidates of mystery Babylon, and I suppose whoever quotes the highest number , accurate or not wins.
I suppose I too will join in this game, but unlike them, I have explicit biblical support that the worst persecution of all time will have its epicenter in Jerusalem.
Speaking of the abomination of desolation which will occur at the temple mount in Jerusalem Jesus says in Matthew 24:
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. – Mat 24:15-22
So this killing will be so bad that if its days were not cut short, then none of the elect would even survive! Jesus also says that this will be more severe than any before it or any after it.
Even if you believe that Matthew 24 is for the Jews, We know the people here are Christians because of the earlier point Jesus makes in verse 9:
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. Mat 24:9“
In any case, it is the worst religious genocide of all time, and its epicenter is the city of Jerusalem.
The very fact that the Lord is emphasizing the importance of fleeing quickly when they see the abomination of desolation here is proof that there will be many in Jerusalem that will not consider the Anti-Christ’s seating himself in the temple, and declaring himself to be God, an abomination at all! In fact, just the opposite, they apparently begin to carry out the antichrist’s orders to kill Christians at this point. This killing may indeed spread to the entire world from here, but the fact that its epicenter is the city of Jerusalem is one of the most attested to prophetic events in the bible.
Rev 17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
It is not clear here whether John means two separate groups of people when he says: blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus:
We do know that in addition to Christians, prophets are twice added to this list of those that she kills:
And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. – Rev 18:24
It is also notable that the two witnesses, who are called prophets in Rev 11, Are said to be killed in the city of Jerusalem:
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. – Rev 11:8
The city where our lord was crucified is unambiguously Jerusalem.
And we will stop here at verse 6. If you would like to see the whole series you can go to versebyversebibleteaching.com or click the links in the description section for more of the videos in this series.