Revelation refers to the city of Babylon and Babylonian Kings, which presumably includes the prominent Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. For example, Revelation symbolically uses the word Babylon a total of seven times while describing the evil capital city of all nations on earth. Revelation moreover describes a beast with seven heads who represents a succession of seven kings followed by an eighth king who eventually rules the earth from the city symbolically called Babylon.
THE FALL OF BABYLON THE GREAT
Revelation (14:8, 18:2) declares, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!" These verses declare the final destruction of the capital city of political and religious forces that oppose God's people while these verses refer to Old Testament judgments against the city of Babylon.
The Old Testament describes two falls of Babylon. First, in 689 BC, Assyrian King Sennacherib sacked Babylon. Second, in 539 BC, Persians ruled by Cyrus the Great overthrew Babylon. Isaiah (13,14:1-23, 21:1-10) presumably describes Sennacherib sacking Babylon while 2 Kings 17:24-28 describes Sennacherib exiling conquered Babylonians to Samaria. Also, Isaiah (46:1-2, 47:1-5), Jeremiah 50-51, Habakkuk 2, and Daniel (2, 5, 7) describe Cyrus overthrowing the Babylonian coregency of King Nabonidus and King Bellshazer.1
THE RISE OF ANCIENT BABYLON
Accounts in Genesis about "Babel" might refer to Babylon while no other known ancient writing or artifacts corroborate these accounts. For example, Genesis 10:8-12 says that "Nimrod" established Babel and six other cities such as Akkad and Nineveh. And Genesis 11:1-9 describes the people of Babel defiantly building a tower or ziggurat to reach the heavens in the sky while the Lord stopped the building plans.
Remains from ancient Babylon lie beside the Euphrates River in modern day Babil Province, Iraq, about fifty-five miles south of Baghdad. The city of Babylon lain in Lower Mesopotamia, which is also southern Iraq. Cities developed in Lower Mesopotamia by 4000 BC while civilization developed in Lower Mesopotamia by 3100 BC. According to the short chronology of the Near Eastern Bronze Age, the earliest discovered written records about Babylon date to the twenty-third century after Sargon of Akkad conquered Mesopotamia. Babylon developed into a polytheistic holy city with many temples while priests ruled the city. Second millennium highlights include the rise and fall of the Old Babylonian dynasty. In 1830, Sumuabum established the Babylonian dynasty. King Hammurabi, the fifth successor, reigned from 1728-1686 while extending his rule and laws in the Code of Hammurabi over all Mesopotamia. Finally, in 1531, the Hittites overthrew the last successor of the Babylonian dynasty.
During the first millennium BC, the Assyrian Empire mostly dominated Babylon and the rest of Mesopotamia until 626 when Nabopolassar led Babylon in a successful revolt. In 612, Nabopolassar allied with the Medes from Persia and sacked the capital of the Assyrian Empire, Nineveh, which lain beside the Tigris River near modern day Mosul, Iraq. This victory inaugurated the Neo-Babylonian Empire, also called the Chaldean Empire.
The last of the Assyrians fled to Harran, in modern day southeast Turkey. In 608, Nabopolassar captured Harran. Then the last of the Assyrians fled to Carchemish on the bank of the Euphrates River near modern day Aleppo, Syria. These Assyrians allied with Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt against the Babylonians in the 605 Battle of Carchemish. Babylonian Crown Prince Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar, commanded the Babylonian army while defeating the Assyrians and Egyptians at Carchemish. The Battle of Carchemish turned large parts of southwest Asia into the hands of Babylon. Nabopolassar died around this time and the conquering Crown Prince Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to assume the throne of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
Nebuchadnezzar became a renown ruler in southwest Asia and the most powerful Neo-Babylonian king. He built many temples and his famous hanging gardens, which historians declared as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Nebuchadnezzar also collected tribute from many vassal kings in his empire.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR AND THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH
Habakkuk 1:2-11 and Jeremiah 25-26 prophesied the Babylonian conquest of Judah. And Jeremiah (25:9, 27:6, 43:10) says the Lord sovereignly made Nebuchadnezzar a servant to punish the wicked Kingdom of Judah. In 604, one year after the Battle of Carchemish, King Jehoiachim of Judah paid tribute to Nebuchadnezzar. But three years later, Jehoiachim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar (2 King 24:1). Nebuchadnezzar proceeded to organize attacks against Judah until the 597 conquest of Judah (2 Kings 24:2-17). Eleven years later in 586, King Zedekiah of Judah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Judah including the Temple in the capital city Jerusalem.
DANIEL AND NEBUCHADNEZZAR
Daniel (2, 4) says that the man Daniel held court positions for Nebuchadnezzar. These chapters describe apocalypses dreamed by Nebuchadnezzar and interpreted by Daniel. Daniel 4 also teaches that apocalyptic judgments are conditional2 while Nebuchadnezzar eventually came to his senses and repented.3
THE BEAST IN REVELATION
Revelation (11:7, 13:1-15, 17:1-18, 16:10-16, 19:19-20, 20:10) describes a beast with seven heads and ten horns who will rule the earth from the city of Babylon. Here is a summary of these verses.
Revelation 11:7 says that the beast who comes from the bottomless pit wars against and conquers two powerful prophets. And nothing more is written about the beast until Revelation 13.
Revelation 12 says that the devil, also called Satan, appears as a great red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns. This dragon wars against holy angels and humanity. And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore.
Revelation 13:1-5 says that the dragon with seven heads and ten horns stood on the sand of the seashore while the beast rose out of the sea. The beast also had ten horns and seven heads while each horn had a crown and the heads had blasphemous names written on them. The beast with seven heads looked like a leopard with feet like a bear and mouths like a lion. The dragon gave its power, throne, and authority to the beast. One of the heads of the beast appeared to die from a deathly wound, but the head recovered from the deathly wound. The recovery from the deathly wound amazed multitudes of humans while all of them worshiped both the dragon and the beast. Nobody thought that they could fight against the beast.
Revelation 13:6-10 says that the beast spoke proud and blasphemous words while exercising authority over all the nations of the earth for forty-two months. And the beast made war against the saints.
Revelation 13:11-18 describes a second beast with two horns like a lamb and the voice of a dragon. The second beast rose out of the earth while exercising all the authority of the first beast while performing miraculous signs. And the second beast made all people worship the first beast, make an idol in the image of the first beast, worship the idol, and receive a mark on their right hand or forehead, which regulated all commercial trade. And the number of the beast is 666.
Revelation 16:10-11 says that the fifth angel of seven angels of wrath poured his punishment on the throne of the beast while the kingdom of the beast plunged into darkness. The people cursed God because of the pain from the punishment while they did not repent of their evil deeds.
Revelation 16:12-16 says that the sixth angel of seven angels of wrath poured his punishment on the great river Euphrates, which dried up the river. Then three foul spirits came from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet. These foul spirits performed miraculous signs and gathered the kings of the earth to battle in a place called Harmagedon.
Revelation 17:1-6 says that an angel describes the great whore who is seated on the many waters. Then a vision shows a woman sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns. Also, the woman was finely dressed and drunk on the blood of saints.
Revelation 17:7-8 says that the angel started to explain details about the mystery of the whore and the beast with seven heads and ten horns. The beast once existed, stopped existing, will reappear by ascending from the bottomless pit, and then go to destruction. Also, all of the unsaved people on earth will be amazed when they see the beast who stopped existing and then reappeared.
Revelation 17:9-14 explains more details about the mystery of the beast with seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads are both seven mountains and seven kings. Five of the seven kings have already died, and one of the seven kings is living, and the last of the seven kings is yet to come. And the beast that once existed and no longer exists is an eighth king that will come from the seven and go to destruction. Also, the ten horns represent ten regional kings who serve the beast. These ten kings will receive their governmental authority for one hour while joining the beast in a war against the Lamb who is the Lord of lords and King of kings. The Lamb conquers the beast and ten kings.
Revelation 17:15-18 explains that "the waters" where the whore is seated are the nations of the earth and the multitudes of people. And the beast with his ten regional kings will turn with hatred toward the whore and devour her. And the whore represents the great city that rules over the nations of the earth.
Revelation 19:19-20 says that the beast and the regional kings gathered their armies to make war against the returning King of kings and Lord of lords. The beast and the false prophet who is identified as the second beast were captured and throne into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.
Revelation 20:10 says the the devil was thrown into the the lake of fire that burns with sulfur along with the beast and the false prophet. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
TYPOLOGY AND REVELATION 17:8-11
Revelation 17:8-11 quotes an angel who helps to interpret the fluid symbolism of the beast with seven heads while establishing a scriptural precedent for typology:
8The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth, whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be amazed when they see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
9This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings, 10of whom five have fallen, one is living, and the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain for only a little while. 11As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. (Revelation 17:8-11)
Revelation 17:8 summarizes the fate of the beast that is described in Revelation 11:7-20:10. For example, the first sentence in verse 17:8 implies that that the beast appeared, apparently ceased to exist, reappeared, and finally faced destruction.
Revelation 17:9-10 teaches that the "seven heads" of the beast represent both "seven mountains" and "seven kings" while "seven mountains" refers to the seven hills of Rome. And the seven kings formed a succession of kings. This suggests that "Babylon" in Revelation refers to both Babylon during the Neo-Babylonian Empire and Rome during the Roman Empire while the "seven kings" refers to both Neo-Babylonian kings and Roman emperors.
Revelation 17:11 teaches that the prophecy about the beast resurrecting from physical death and ultimately facing destruction describes an eighth king. Likewise, the activities of this eighth king describes the fate of the beast in according to verses 11:7, 13:1-10, 17:8, 19:19-20 and 20:10.
The eighth king also appears to fit the bill of "the lawless one" in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10. For example, the lawless one is destined for destruction (2:3), sets himself to be worshiped (2:4), is accompanied by supernatural signs and wonders from Satan (2:9-10), and is destroyed by the return of the Lord (2:8) . Likewise, the lawless one is evidently referred to as "antichrist" in 1 John 2:18, commonly called the Antichrist. Also, Revelation 13:1-10 says that the beast reigns for forty-two months (Daniel 9:37),4 sets up an idol of himself, and attacks the saints, which refers to the desolating sacrilege (abomination) described by Daniel and Jesus (Daniel 8:1-25, 9:20-27, 11:31, 12:11; Matthew 24:15-21; Mark 13:14-23; Luke 21:20-24).
All of these verses help to establish a scriptural precedent for typology. Typology involves "prefiguration" (type) and "postfiguration" (antitype). A prefiguration foreshadows a future person, place or event while a postfiguration analogizes a previous person, place, or event. For example, Babylon and the Babylonian kings are a prefiguration of Rome and the Roman emperors. Likewise, Rome and Roman Emperors are a postfiguration of Babylon and Neo-Babylonian kings. Also, the seven kings described in Revelation 17:9-10 are a prefiguration of the eighth king.
Notable ancient prefigurations of the eighth king include Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus IV Epiphanies, Nero, and Titus. For example, as stated earlier, Nebuchadnezzar was the most prominent king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire and he organized the 597 BC sack of Jerusalem and the 586 destruction of both Jerusalem and its temple. Likewise, Antiochus IV Epiphanies led the 171 BC overthrow of Jerusalem while slaughtering tens of thousands of Jews and desecrating the temple altar. Also, Roman Emperor Nero sadistically persecuted Christians and reigned until AD 68 during the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War. And Revelation 13:3 and 17:11 apparently alludes to the Nero Redivivus Legend. Moreover, Titus commanded the Roman military in the First Jewish-Roman War during the 70 destruction of Jerusalem while Titus slaughtered an estimated six hundred thousand to one million two hundred thousand Jews and desecrated the Jewish temple.
THE NATURE OF THE EIGHTH KING
The eighth king who is the beast and the final Antichrist will exist, cease to exist, and reappear. This beast ascends from the bottomless pit. The ascent from the bottomless pit teaches about the demonic nature of the beast. Revelation also says that the eighth king comes from the seven kings, which teaches about the human nature of the eighth king. Likewise, the eighth king is both demonic and human while controversy surrounds interpreting the nature and mechanics of the eighth king.
Different interpretations of the demonic nature of the beast include rejecting that Revelation and 2 Thessalonians 2 teach about the final individual human Antichrist. For example, some say that the beast represents Rome and no individual person while they say Rome represents a demonically controlled worldly system that opposes God. This interpretation helps to explain some of the symbols in Revelation while it appears to miss important teaching about the seven kings and the eighth king.
Some interpretors might conclude that Nero is the eighth king because Revelation 13:3 and 17:11 refer to the Nero Redivivus Legend. This would make Nero a prefiguration of the eighth king while I see no strong argument that says Nero fulfilled all prophecy about the eighth king. And if 13:3 and 17:11 refer to the Nero Redivivus Legend, then these verses would have been written after the origin of the legend while Revelation implies that the eighth king is a future person.
Some interpretors might conclude that the eighth king is an ordinary human leader possessed by an archdemon. However, I doubt that Revelation teaches that the eighth king is merely possessed. For example, both Revelation 16:12-16 and 20:10 imply strong similarities with the devil, the beast, and the false prophet. They appear as a twisted triumvirate or trinity of evil while organizing Harmagedon and suffering in the lake of fire. This strongly suggests that the beast and the false prophet are more than possessed humans while they are archdemons themselves.
I propose that both the beast and false prophet are an archdemon who incarnated into an angelic-human hypostatic union. I borrow the phrase hypostatic union from the Third Ecumenical Council teaching about how Jesus Christ is the union of a divine nature and a human nature while Christ is both completely God and completely human.
I proposed that Genesis 18:1-19:25 teaches about angelic humans.5 For example, Genesis 18:1-19:25 begins with the Lord appearing to Abraham while Abraham sees three men. These men are three angels (or the Lord and two angels) visiting Abraham. The angels conversed, ate, and drank with Abraham. Later, the men from Sodom wanted to sexually rape two of the angels. These details teach that the angels had a digestive tract and sex appeal, which implies that these angels appeared in human bodies. Since angels in the Old Testament tended to suddenly appear and disappear, then I suppose that these adult human bodies were suddenly created instead of conceived in a woman. Regardless of the origin of these human bodies, we see people who are both angel and human while I believe these are examples of an angelic-human hypostatic union.
Other possible Old Testament cases of angels appearing as men include Genesis 6:1-4 and Numbers 13:33. Apocryphal interpretation of these verses teach that fallen angels had sex with human women while producing hybrid giant "Nephilim". However, the Apocryphal teaching about angel-human hybrids is inconsistent with Numbers 13:33 saying that the Anakites descended from the Nephilim, because mammalian hybrids have little or no ability to reproduce. Likewise, the case of the Anakites implies that the Nephilim had both a human father and a human mother, which would be the case if the father were an angelic human. Also, I suppose that Genesis 6:1-4 and Numbers 13:33 teach that fallen, angelic human men impregnated the human mothers of the Nephilim.
The Mosaic tradition of fallen angels appearing as human men helps us to understand the nature of the beast and the false prophet apart from the difference that the beast and false prophet supposedly have human parents. Also, I suppose God sovereignly allows the union of an archdemon with a human zygote, which results in an fallen, angelic human in the cases of the beast and false prophet.
TYPOLOGY AND THE REPENTANCE OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
I find Nebuchadnezzar the most interesting prefiguration of the beast because Nebuchadnezzar repented according to Daniel 4. Most futurists assume that the beast cannot repent and has no choice but to fulfill his or her scriptural destiny of doom. However, as stated in the section "DANIEL AND NEBUCHADNEZZAR", Daniel 4 teaches that apocalyptic judgments are conditional. Likewise, we see that apocalyptic judgments are subject to conditions and Nebuchadnezzar is a repentant prefiguration of the beast.
The dynamics of apocalyptic judgments implies that we do not know if the beast or the false prophet will repent instead of facing their apocalyptic doom while we learn some important lessons from this. For example, there is a lot of dogmatic teaching in evangelical circles that ignores the conditional dynamics of apocalyptic judgments while some of this misdirected dogma generates misdirected hype. Likewise, we want to avoid misinterpreting scripture. Also, this teaches us more about 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, 2for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, 4who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NRSV)
Paul wrote this during the reign of Nero and it applies for every generation of Christians. Christians need to pray for the salvation of every political leader, even if the leader turns out to be the beast. In sum, the Lord desires that the beast and every prefiguration of the beast will be saved.
1Controversy surrounds the dating and authorship of many verses in Isaiah, Daniel, and the rest of the Old Testament. See William Sanford LaSor et al., Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 2nd Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996).
2James Goetz, "The Conditional Apocalypse of King Nebuchadnezzar", (TheoPerspectives, 2009), http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2009/02/conditional-apocalypse-king.htm.
3James Goetz, "Conditional Futurism in Sum", (TheoPerspectives, 2008), http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2008/11/conditional-futurism.html.
4Forty-two months refers to the "half of the week" (half of seven years) of "abomination that desolates" in Daniel 9:37.
5James Goetz, "Orthodoxy and Gregory of Nyssa's Universalism", (TheoPerspectives, 2009), http://theoperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/10/orthodoxy-and-gregory-of-nyssas.html.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2009 James Edward Goetz