I’m going to split my reflections into two parts this morning. The first will be on Babylon the Great and who she represents. Elsewhere in revelation, she is called a PG-13 word that I will leave out of this post. You likely have heard she represents the Catholic Church I will attempt to explain why this is incorrect and misleading. Secondly in a post later today I will examine a theme that will come up a couple of times but first came up today in our readings. That is the wedding feast of the lamb. Why is there a wedding in heaven and what does it mean for us?
She is not the “Roman” Catholic Church
One of the common mistakes opponents of the Catholic Church make is thinking that the Roman Catholic Church or the Latin rite is the entirety of the Catholic Church. Nowhere in the Churches identity is Rome tied up into her outside of the fact that her head still on earth is the Bishop of Rome. The reason the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, has always been the head has nothing to do with Rome, but instead, it’s a connection to our first Pope Peter. Many commentators point to ancient Rome which I will explain in a minute as Babylon, but John NEVER attended to connect the Church with Rome.
Babylon as Rome? Not likely but possible
I will lay out why I think Rome is a possible candidate but not the best candidate. First Rome is a city set on seven hills (C.F. Rev 17:9) Rome is a city set on seven hills. She is Drunk with the blood of Christians (Rev 17:6) She exercises dominion over many kings (17:18 and 18:3). These two are good explanations of the city of Rome. You could take the approach that this is another passage with double meaning, but I’m not so sure.
Babylon is Jerusalem.
Just a few notes a lot is going on here. First in Chapter 21 which we will examine later this week speaks of the New Jerusalem. I won’t go into great detail I instead recommend the book I’m using to help me understand the book of Revelation, see at the bottom of this article. John intentionally uses the New Jerusalem to contradict Babylon or the old Jerusalem. It is clear as day when you compare the two passages. I will show you two passages side by side to explain the connection.
Then one of the seven angels who were holding the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come here. I will show you the judgment on the great harlot . . . Then he carried me away in spirit to a deserted place where I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names, with seven heads and ten horns.Revelation 17:1-3
One of the seven angels who held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God
I hope you can see the connection. There are even more connections later in this passage, but it was too much to include. A few other notes, Babylon sits on the beast, which likely represents Rome, and secondly Jerusalem at the time of Jesus was propped up by Rome, Babylon is a separate figure from Rome in this vision, meaning she is likely Jerusalem. The high priest did say “We have no king but Caesar” at Jesus trail. The beast devours this woman (c.f. Rev 17:16) Finally compare her destruction to Jeremiah 50-51, you will see a similar language.
What do we as Catholics take from this passage? First, do not worry about the Church being the evil depicted in the book of Revelation, it has no grounds. Secondly, we know that Christ has already won the victory for us and will win it again when he comes back. No matter the suffering we may face in this world, or even the great evil that sometimes arises in this world, we know Christ has won over those powers of darkness and he will one day redeem the world.