A City Set On a Hill
Surviving the Seventieth Week by Reforming Fundamentalism and Establishing Cities of Refuge
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The Identity of Babylon
Copyright 2010 by Raul E. Lopez, MD, MDiv

Of all the seven churches addressed by the book of Revelation, one of them, the church of Philadelphia, is given a special promise of protection. "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Revelation 3:10). We have seen that this special protection cannot be a pre-tribulational rapture of the church. Some have speculated that the United States, which, at the moment, has the largest number of born again Christians, will be able to resist the power of the Antichrist and avoid the persecutions happening in the rest of the world. This would make the United States a haven of refuge and a source of protection for the church. This, however, is unlikely. The United States is by far the most powerful nation on Earth. This is true both because of its vast size and it vast wealth. It has the third largest area of any country. Only Russia and Canada are larger, while China, Brazil, and Australia are slightly smaller. However, Russia and Canada have a significant proportion of their land mass near the Arctic circle. Brazil is covered by dense tropical jungles and Australia is covered by deserts. China will probably become a great power, but they seem to be one of the "kings of the east" mentioned in Revelation 16:12 in a different context. Because the supremacy of the United States is partly a result of its size and geographic location, it is not likely to loose this power in the foreseeable future. Following the recent disintegration of the Soviet Union the only possible challenge to the undisputed supremacy of the United States would come from a United Europe, and the area of Western Europe is smaller than that of the United States. Therefore, if there is to be any validity to the authority of the Antichrist as world ruler he must have authority over the United States. In fact, scripture suggests the United States is actually the country which will produce the Antichrist and serve as his original power base.

Three cities fit the description of Babylon as it is presented in the Apocalypse. The name Babylon is derived from the name Babel which is a reference to the babbling of the many languages which were created in the original Babylon when God confused the languages there (Genesis 11:9). Of all the cities on Earth, New York City is the most cosmopolitan. It is a city where hundreds of languages are spoken by hundreds of nationalities in their own little enclaves. Some of these enclaves rival the size of the largest city in their own native countries. For example, it is said that more Italians live in NYC than in any city except Rome, more Puerto Ricans than in San Juan, etc. Additionally, Babylon is described as "that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth" (Revelation 17:18). The headquarters of the UN are in NYC, so it is the only city at this time which has any claim to being the capital of the Earth. As time goes by the UN is only becoming more, not less, powerful. Babylon is also described as "that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth!" (Revelation 18:19). New York City is the world's undisputed financial capital. This will not change as long as the US dollar remains the world's most important currency.

It is apparent from the scriptures that the Antichrist will begin his career as the ruler of a powerful country. Daniel says "the fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on the earth" (Daniel 7:23). The theological consensus is that this kingdom was the Roman empire. The angel speaking with Daniel continues, "The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom" (v. 24). These are the European nation states which arose out of the remains of the former Roman Empire after the empire collapsed during the middle ages. These include the great colonial powers, England, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Holland, and Belgium, all of which were part of the old Roman Empire. Notice that many of the languages of Europe are basically modern forms of Latin. Even English preserves en extensive Latin-derived lexicon. "And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones" (v. 24). While different, the kingdom of the Antichrist also arises from the Roman beast (v. 8) so it too must be a descendant of the people of the Roman Empire. All of the former colonies of Europe which have a population which is predominantly of European descent fit this description. They are different from the European countries because they are not in Europe, but they are European in descent. Evidence that the kingdom of the Antichrist is a former overseas colony of a European country is found in John's description of the Antichrist "Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of he sea" (Revelation 13:1). Countries which fit these descriptions include the United States, Canada, the nations of Latin America, Australia, and maybe even South Africa. However, out of those, only the United States is a world power. The angel says that this country (or king) "shall subdue three kings" (v. 24). The country of the Antichrist will be powerful enough to conquer three of the original European countries. This may have happened when the United States conquered Germany, Austria, and Italy as well as France and other Nazi held countries during world war two. The two world wars gave the US a great amount of influence over Europe, something which no other former colony has done. The possibility that Antichrist will arise out of the United States needs to be considered seriously.

Another city which fits the description of Babylon is the ancient city of Rome. In the time of the Apostles, Rome was what New York City and Washington DC are today. Rome surely is the city which the Apostle John had in mind when he was writing the description of Babylon. A two hundred year period of intermittent persecution followed the death of John and ended when emperor Constantine established Christianity as the preferred religion of the Empire. However, by the time Constantine took power Rome was no longer the Imperial capital, Milan was the main capital, and Constantine took even more power away from Rome by taking the Imperial capital out of Italy altogether. He made Constantinople in Asia Minor, now Istanbul, Turkey, the seat of the Roman empire. Rome was still the world's largest city, and this power vacuum was filled by Roman Catholic Church which in many ways preserved the culture and institutions of ancient Rome, including its religion. Therefore, the Vatican preserves the soul of Rome, even though New York, in many ways preserves its body. Hints of this dual identity can be seen in John's description of Babylon. One aspect is called "Babylon the great" while the other aspect is called "Mystery Babylon". The later is pictured as a harlot who rides the European Beast. God's people are described as a woman, as the wife of Jehovah or the bride of Christ. However, this woman, Babylon, is a harlot. Roman Catholicism, since its essence is a synthesis of Paganism with Christianity, can be considered as an unfaithful wife, a prostitute. It is this mystery aspect of Babylon which modern Italian Rome fits.

Even the pope admitted that Roman Catholicism is a synthesis between the religion of the Bible and Greco Roman philosophy. In an address given to German scientists at the University of Regensburg, September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said:

"The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) - this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry. . . ."

"This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe."

"The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a de-hellenization of Christianity a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the program of de-hellenization: although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives."

"De-hellenization first emerges in connection with the postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system. The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself."

What the Pope is saying is that, to him, Christianity, is a synthesis between the religion of the Bible, and Greco-Roman culture. He acknowledges that the goal of the reformers was to purify the religion of the Bible from this Greco-Roman baggage.

Finally, a third city which might play the role of Babylon in the end times is modern Babylon, a city which is often overlooked . This city is the modern city of Baghdad whose suburbs are encroaching upon the ruins of ancient Babylon. During the height of the Islamic Arab Empire, Baghdad was its capital. Islam is the only major religion which is a reaction to Christianity. Islam is a religion with three essential elements. The most important of these is a blatant denial of the deity of Christ and a strong Unitarian emphasis. The second is the teaching of salvation by works. Many elements of Rabbinical Judaism were incorporated into Islam to bolster this aspect, including the dietary law. As descendants of Abraham, Arabs already practiced circumcision. Finally this unitarian moralism was spiced with Arab culture, including the dress of women, pilgrimages to Mecca, polygamy, and the fast of Ramadan. It is the Arabic aspect which most people associate with Islam, but that aspect is mere window dressing. The essence of Islam differs little from liberal Christianity.

It is interesting that Iraq, the country whose capital is Baghdad, has a very large population of Shiite Moslems. The majority of Moslems in the world are Sunnis. Only Iran and Iraq have a large Shiite population. A simplistic way to visualize the difference between these two groups is to think of the Sunnis as the Protestants and the Shiites as the Catholics. Shiites have a supreme leader similar to the Roman Catholic Pope. This leader is called the Ayatollah. Shiites believe that Mohammad passed down his authority to his son in law who took the title of Imam. Twelve Imams succeeded each other and the twelfth Imam simply disappeared. Shiites are still waiting for the twelfth Imam to return. A man named Bahaulla once claimed to be this twelfth Imam and started a religion called Bahaism. The government of Iran rejected these claims and has strongly persecuted Bahai's, but this shows that this idea of the return of the twelfth Imam is accepted in some circles.

It is possible that Babylon will be represented by all three cities, each city representing a key aspect of Babylon. Each of these cities is the seat of power of one of the key personages described in the Apocalypse. New York is the Babylon of the Antichrist, Rome is the Babylon of the great harlot, and Baghdad is the Babylon of the false prophet.

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