The Overthrow of Babylon
Lesson 12: The Book of Revelation
Revelation 17:1 – 20:10
Rubel Shelly, teaching
1. What do you know about the history of ancient Babylon? Its evil practices? Its oppression of
the Chosen People?
2. Why does Babylon become the perfect “code name” for Rome in the Book of Revelation?
How might this have been a practical way to avoid trouble in circulating the book? In
addition to its practical value, what was the theological impact of using the city’s name?
3. Rome is not only tagged with the name “Babylon” but is simultaneously called a “great
prostitute” (17:1) and “Babylon the Great / the Mother of Prostitutes / And of the
Abominations of the Earth” (17:5). Why is prostitution used so often in Scripture as a way of
characterizing idolatry? Cf. Nah 3:1-4; Isa 23:15-18.
4. What is the relationship of the “great prostitute” to the beast she is riding? What is her
relationship to the Lamb of the Apocalypse? As Babylon falls under judgment, how is she
treated by her former suitors? (cf. 17:16). What is the obvious explanation for this reversal
of attitude and behavior?
5. What is the image you get from reading the graphic description of Rome’s overthrow in
Chapter 18? What warning does God give to his own people in Chapter 18?
6. In the face of a great lament over Rome’s fall by the unredeemed (18:9-20), what is the
reaction of Heaven to its overthrow in Chapter 19? What new image is introduced at 19:7?
What is the contrast here with the woman seen in Chapter 17?
7. How do you interpret the “thousand years” of Revelation 20?
More than once John had found comfort for himself and his people by proclaiming the fall of Rome. So
certain is he that God will judge the persecutors of the church that he now devotes two chapters to an
account of the crashing down of the fabulous “grandeur that was Rome.” To say directly that God will
destroy imperial Rome would have been, of course, altogether treasonous in the eyes of the imperial
authorities. So, like a prisoner writing in code from a concentration camp, John characterizes the power
of evil as Babylon (though a Roman official of even moderate intelligence could not fail to see his mother
city reflected in a text that spoke of a city set on seven hills that held dominion over the kings of the earth
[17:9,18]). Just as Babylon represented to the Hebrews all that was wicked and symbolized persecution,
so for John, Rome was another Babylon, the source and fountainhead of all seductive luxury and vice,
living in voluptuous materialism and selfishness. (Bruce Metzger)