Is Rome Babylon?
One of the concepts that has caused a considerable amount of polemics to thrive between Catholics and Protestants through the years has been the idea of Rome as Babylon. Both Futurist and Historicist Protestants have used the Rome as Babylon motif to paint the Catholic Church as the Harlot and the Pope as the Antichrist. Yet while the NT usage of the word Babylon for Rome does represent the NT mindset, certainly very few from Emergent would still cast Catholicism or Rome as Babylon etc. Below I would like to make a suggestion and see what some of you might think about it. Of course, I am a futurist or a classic premillenialist - or as I will likely be viewed by the Emergent Church - a starchy extremist fundamentalist traditionalist. But I’m good with that. The wicked always persecute the righteous. Kidding Kidding.
Okay; of course Babylon was once literally Babylon. But by the later portion of the 1st Century, Babylon was viewed as a code word of sorts for Rome. This is evidenced in 1st Peter (“She who is in Babylon greets you…”) as well as the Sibylline Oracles, the Assumption of Moses and a few other apocryphal works. As such, we see that the idea of Babylon (in many ways harkening even further back beyond Babylon to Babel, as the first city where a unified front of mankind attempted to establish the first great anti-Yahweh religion) was symbolically applied to the capital city of which ever Beast Empire (any number of Middle Eastern anti-Yahweh, anti-Semitic, and eventually anti-Christ and anti-Christian empires) was reigning at the time. In other words, Babylon migrates. Once in Babylon (Nebuchadrezzar’s Gold head, Daniel’s Lion beast), eventually in Rome (Neb’s iron legs, Daniel’s fourth ferocious beast), Babylon follows the beast of the day.
But then in Revelation 17:9-11 we are offered the idea that possibley Rome was not the last Beast:
9”This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. 11The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.
While many in their polemics have attempted to use the “seven hills” to try to suggest that this is a reference to Rome, we know that hills (or mountains) refer to Empires as seen from Neb’s statue dream. (The Mountain that struck the feet and shattered the statue grew into a great Kingdom that filled the earth). Likewise we are well aware that seven hills would not have blasphemous names written on them, as is described elsewhere in Rev, yet Beast Empires certainly can. So this strange passage is instead referring to not six, nor even seven but eight Beast Empires. The eighth is said to actually only be a resurrection so to speak of one of the seven.
Clearly at the time of John writing Revelation, Rome “was”. Rome was thus Babylon. But today Rome is the headquarters of a great Christian entity. Old Rome has fallen. Thus after Rome another two Beast empires were to emerge.
Now obviously, my guess is that most preterists will disagree with this interpretation, but then how is this passage then to be viewed? Particulalry if we are consistant with the motif of Mountains as empires etc. And if not empires, then what historical events does this reference?