17:5 BABYLON THE GREAT. Babylon is referred to several times in Revelation as an actual city (Revelation 14:8; 17:18; 18:10, 20), and there is no reason to call it “Rome” or “Catholicism” or something else, as many have done. Babylon was still a fairly important city at the time John wrote, and would remain so for several more centuries, so why would he call it Babylon if it wasn’t Babylon? If he meant Rome, he would certainly have called it Rome (Paul did so, frequently, and so did Luke). Babylon eventually fell mostly into ruins, though never entirely abandoned, and it will eventually be rebuilt to rival its former glory (see notes on Zechariah 5:5-11). The city is now in Iraq, and the Iraqi government has, indeed, been working on its restoration for many years, with ambitions to make it a capital of Islam and a center of world influence. Eventually the Beast will probably take over the whole region and make Babylon his own capital. It is ideally situated to be the global center of government, religion, commerce and communication, since it is very near to the actual geographical center of the world’s land areas.
17:5 ABOMINATIONS. The Babel of Nimrod, not the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, is actually the “mother of harlots and abominations.” The word “abominations” is commonly used for “idols.” It was Nimrod, later deified as “Merodach” or “Marduk” (whose worship was revived by Nebuchadnezzar) who really introduced false religion into the post-Flood world, probably under the illumination and instigation of Satan himself. When the people were scattered from Babel by God (Genesis 11:9), they all had different tongues but the same basic religion, as taught to them by Nimrod. This is why all the world’s non-monotheistic religions—whether ancient (e.g., Egyptian, Greek, Roman) or modern (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism)—are all pantheistic, polytheistic, idolatrous, spiritistic, humanistic and evolutionistic. None of them permit belief in a transcendent Creator God. Even modern scientific evolutionism is essentially a somewhat sophisticated variation of the ancient Babel religion. The same is even more true of modern New Age evolutionism, with its plethora of movements. Thus, the first Babel was literally “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” However, it is only in this verse that she is called “Mystery, Babylon.” Even though she is clearly the great city of Babylon, evidently revived and restored as the great world capital, “Mystery Babylon” is more than that. She is nothing less than the great syncretistic religious system of the whole world, comprising in essence the evolutionistic faith originated by Satan in lieu of believing God (note Revelation 12:9), which he taught Nimrod to enable the latter to justify his rebellion. This false faith was then scattered around the whole world at the time of the dispersion, and continues in one form or another as the religion of the God-rejecting world, right up to the time of the end.