PMT 2014-014 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Harlot drunk 2In my last blog article I began a brief argument for John’s Babylon being a metaphor for first-century Jerusalem. In this study I will bring the argument to a conclusion. Though I welcome questions!

John clearly engages in a literary contrast between the harlot and the chaste bride, suggesting that he is counterposing the Jerusalem below with the Jerusalem above (Rev 21:2; cf. Gal 4:24ff.; Heb 12:18ff.). In Revelation 17:2–5 and Revelation 21:1ff the contrast is remarkable and detailed. We must remember that Revelation specifically designates the bride as the “New Jerusalem” from heaven. We see at least five contrasts:

(1) Notice how John is introduced to the harlot: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters’ ” (Rev 17:1). This is identical to the way he sees the bride: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife’ ” (Rev 21:9).

Navigating the Book of Revelation (by Ken Gentry)
Technical studies on key issues in Revelation, including the seven-sealed scroll, the cast out temple, Jewish persecution of Christianity, the Babylonian Harlot, and more.
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(2) The two women have a contrasting character: “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters” (Rev 17:1). “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Rev 21:9).

(3) The two women appear in contrasting environments: “So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast” (Rev 17:3). “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (Rev 21:10).

(4) John focuses on the contrasting dress of each woman: “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication” (Rev 17:4). “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints . . . having the glory of God. And her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Rev 19:8; 21:11).

(5) John contrasts their names. Earlier in Revelation Johns calls earthly Jerusalem by pagan names quite compatible with the designation “Babylon.” In Revelation 11:8 he describes here as “spiritually Sodom and Egypt.” In an earlier day Isaiah identifies Jerusalem as Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa 1). The idea is that rather than conducting herself as the wife of God, she has become one of God’s enemies, like Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon.

The fact that the harlot sits on the seven-headed beast (which represents Rome) indicates not her identity with Rome, but her alliance with Rome against Christianity. The Jews demand Christ’s crucifixion (Mt 27:24–25; Jn 19:12–15; Ac 2:23) and constantly either directly persecute Christians (Mt 23:37ff; Ac 8:1; 1Th 2:14–17) or stir up the Romans to do so (Ac 12:1–3; 17:5–7).

The evidence proves that the harlot is Jerusalem (for more detailed discussion see my book The Book of Revelation Made Easy). John’s Revelation contrasts the Jerusalem below with the Jerusalem above, as in Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:25–26. The Jerusalem below has forsaken her husband in denying the Messiah.

I believe it to be supremely clear that John is dealing with Jerusalem under the image of Babylon. She is the new enemy of God, even being called “a synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9; 3:9) and “Egypt” (Rev 11:8). This is much like Isaiah calling Israel Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa 1:10) and Ezekiel calling her the sister of Sodom (Eze 16:49).

Four Views on the Book of Revelation (ed. by Marvin Pate)
Helpful presentation of four approaches to Revelation
Ken Gentry presents a preterist overview of Revelation in 50 pages.

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15 thoughts on “BABYLON IS JERUSALEM (Part 2)

  1. scaldaferriLeandro February 4, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    The dispensational system always taught heresies to the people about these matters. Praise God we can see and understand the truth now.

  2. angel of Thyatira February 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm


    I am the angel of Thyatira and I come to you with a message of truth. I offer nothing more than the literal truth, which is hard to accept.

    I am sending letters to churches, but also contacting online believers. I hope you will take the time to read and allow my comment, it is important for Christians. I kindly thank you for your love of God.

    May the Spirit of Christ always be in you. Amen.

  3. Patricia Watkins October 20, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Just to add one more pebble on the pile that proves Babylon’s identity as Jerusalem, John the Revelator was merely borrowing from OT references to connect the two.

    In Isaiah 56, after delivering a stinging rebuke to the shepherd leaders of Israel, the prophet uses some choice language to describe those of Israel who were not righteous: “But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the SEED of the adulterer and the WHORE / HARLOT.” If these unrighteous Israelites were the children of a harlot, then Jerusalem would have been their harlot mother, as the Rev. 17 inscription titles her.

    The only place I would part company with this on-target post above would be the 7 hills that the harlot sits upon. I still believe these to be the 7 hills of Jerusalem, (not Rome’s 7 hills), since this scarlet beast in Rev. 17 is found in the setting of a “wilderness” – a typical geographical feature found in scripture describing Israel, not Rome.

  4. Kenneth Gentry October 20, 2016 at 10:50 am

    The woman is indeed “in the wilderness,” which shows her desolation in contrast with the new Jerusalem on a “high mountain” (Rev. 21:10). But the woman is sitting on the beast (Rome). That is, she has aligned herself with Rome (John 19:12, 15) and directs Rome to persecute the Christians (“sitting” in Rev. often represent rule, influence, guidance) (Acts 17:5-7). John is condemning her for encouraging Roman violence against Christians.

    The seven hills are the famed seven hills of Rome, universally known throughout the ancient world. They also represent “seven kings,” the first seven rulers of the Roman empire. The succession of these seven rulers (Julius to Galba) provide an important time-frame for the events.

  5. Patricia Watkins October 20, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Dr. Gentry, I have to align my definition of those 7 kings in Rev. 17 – the “kings of the earth” (that Jerusalem / Babylon reigns over) with Christ’s definition of them as the high priests of Israel as He described them in Matthew 17:25. In that context, the “kings of the earth” were the ones who received the benefit of the temple tax, and were “free” from paying it themselves.

    Hannah’s praise magnifying the Lord in I Samuel 2:10 (I Kings 2:10 in the LXX) also refers to these kings of Israel. “…The Lord has gone up to the heavens, and has thundered; he will judge the extremities of the earth, and he gives strength to OUR KINGS, and will exalt the horn of his Christ.” Since Israel’s first King Saul had not arrived on the scene yet, Hannah could only be referring to God having strengthened Israel’s HIGH PRIESTS. Israel had been called a kingdom of priests from antiquity. (Exodus 19:6 “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation….”)

    I’m sorry, but I still have to disagree with you on this one point. The 7 kings of the earth and the eighth one were all high priests of the House of Annas – not emperors. And there were exactly the right number of them to match the language describing their actions and identity in Rev. 17. In addition, to match the 10 horns on this Wilderness Beast that came to power simultaneously for one hour only, we have a record of exactly 10 generals appointed at Jerusalem in AD 66 for the war, one of which was Josephus himself (Wars 2.20.3-4). This Wilderness Beast is completely Judean in character, including the 7 Jerusalem hills the harlot sat upon.

    It is true that these “kings of the earth” / high priests most definitely collaborated with the Roman beast from the sea in persecution of the saints, but they did not symbolically sit on top of Rome’s hills in a dominant position of ruling it. It seems apparent that the Sea Beast and the Wilderness Beast are two different creatures.

  6. Kenneth Gentry October 24, 2016 at 10:01 am

    You do not understand my position on the “kings of the earth.” I hold this is a phrase that speaks of the Jewish high priestly aristocracy as the “rulers of the Land.”

    The harlot is not the beast, but is sitting on the beast as an image of control just as God sits on the throne in controlling the universe (Rev. 4:2), the riders on the horses sit on their horses to direct their actions (Rev. 6:2, 4, 5, 8), and the 200 million horsemen sit on their horses to direct their actions (Rev. 9:17). The beast has already been presented in Rev 13. There he was presented as the persecutor of Christianity; here he is presented as the (spiritual) pawn of Jerusalem, doing her bidding against the Christians. The harlot is Jerusalem (representing Israel) which is influential in persecuting Christians and getting the Romans to persecute them.

    The seven mountains are clearly the famed seven hills of Rome. It is too obvious to deny. And the seven kings with five fallen, one reigning, and one coming soon perfectly fits the first century political facts.

    John is showing Israel’s linkage with Rome which results in her being in the wilderness, rather than on a high mountain, as is the new Jerusalem.

  7. Joseph October 12, 2018 at 5:56 am

    Dr. Gentry, correct me if i’m wrong, but your interpretation of the second beast (ie. apostate Judaism) and the harlot (ie. Israel) are so close together. Do you see the possibility of them being the same? But then again some difficulties:
    – 18:16 the first beast (ie. Rome) will hate the harlot (ie. Israel), does this mean the second beast (ie. apostate Judaism) will also join the first beast? it makes little sense or apostate Judaism to take part in destroying Israel.
    – separate destruction: the harlot is destroyed in chap 18 but the second beast in chap 19 together with the beast.

  8. Kenneth Gentry October 12, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for reading and thinking through the issues.

    More specifically, I believe the second beast is the high-priestly aristocracy of Israel, whereas the harlot is Israel herself. The high-priestly aristocracy (the second beast) sided with Rome against Christ and Christianity. In fact, they felt they had to in order to maintain their power (John 11:47-50).

  9. Joseph October 16, 2018 at 1:14 am

    Dr. Gentry, many (as you do) see the Rev 17 harlot in contrast to the Bride in Rev 21. But wouldn’t it make sense to view the Rev 17 woman as contrasting with Rev 12 woman because both were in “wilderness”?

  10. Kenneth Gentry October 16, 2018 at 6:48 am

    In a sense, you are correct — in that the woman in the wilderness is ultimately the bride. However, the structure of Revelation seems strongly to directly contrast the harlot and the bride. This is powerfully established in their introduction, among other things. Remember, in the article to which you are responding I note:

    Notice how John is introduced to the harlot: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters’ ” (Rev 17:1). This is identical to the way he sees the bride: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife’ ” (Rev 21:9).

    John’s emphasis is on the great evil of the harlot and her judgment, as over against the great glory of bride and her joy.

  11. Fred V. Squillante September 5, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Revelation 17:1 says that the woman sits on many waters. Verse 15 says The waters where the harlot sits are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. The woman is sitting on the beast (many waters). This can only mean the Roman Empire.

  12. Kenneth Gentry September 6, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Thanks for reading. I will have a two-part response, posted on Sept. 17 and Sept. 20.

  13. CAIQUE MATHEUS RIBEIRO CALIXTO May 22, 2022 at 11:01 pm

    Dr Gentry,
    If the final destruction of Babylon is described in chapter 18, then how does the Beast (Nero) still appear alive in Revelation 19:19 to make war against Christ? We know from history that Nero died 2 years before the fall of Babylon.
    God bless

  14. Kenneth Gentry May 24, 2022 at 8:18 am

    Revelation does not make linear progress from its beginning to its end. There is an overall progress, but it occurs in cycles. Thus, there is not conflict.

  15. Jim McKissack December 10, 2022 at 7:27 am

    Many prophecies are telescopic, parallel in nature. I do agree with the early date and immediate context of Revelation, however it, like the flood of Genesis 7 it can and may picture another coming judgement as well. Correctly interpreting prophecy is not an all or none proposition imo. Thanks, Kenneth, for your studious insight.

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