The Antichrist is going to be a really bad guy, but Babylon the Great’s resume is pretty ugly too. How so? Let’s take a look at some of its characteristics. For starters, it’s going to be a port city with the most important economy in the world (Revelation 18:9-19). Traders will make a great deal of money from selling their ship’s cargoes in the city (Revelation 18:19). Indeed, when Babylon the Great is judged, the ship captains and sailors will weep, watching from a distance at the smoke rising from the city (Revelation 18:17-18).
Alright, but what’s wrong with being a port city with an important economy? Well, Babylon the Great is called a prostitute multiple times (Revelation 17:5). There are two reasons for this. First, the ancient port city of Tyre was called a prostitute because it exploited nations through its dishonest trade (Isaiah 23:15-18). Babylon the Great, the world’s economic superpower, will do the same (Revelation 18:3, 9, 11-19).
Likewise, Ninevah, which received the Lord under Jonah’s preaching, and Israel were called prostitutes because they made commitments to the Lord that they later abandoned (Ezekiel 16:15-22; Nahum 3:4, 7). So, Babylon the Great will exploit people economically and lead the world to live sinfully, despite having once been faithful to the Lord (Revelation 19:2). As a result, the city will be held responsible for the blood of all the saints (Revelation 18:24) and it will be destroyed by the Lord for its wickedness (Revelation 16:19; 18:21).
That’s a pretty intense judgment, but it’s not without good reason. Babylon the Great will rule over the nations of the world before the Antichrist rises (Revelation 14:8; 17:16-18). It’s the world’s superpower at the time of the end and the Antichrist’s main rival for global domination. Through its economic exploitation, interventionist foreign policy and promotion of sinful living, Babylon the Great will end up creating the conditions for the Antichrist to rise to power (Revelation 17:1, 5, 15, 16; 19:2).
Although Babylon the Great will rule the world, eventually the Antichrist will greatly damage the city (Revelation 17:16). Ultimately, the Lord will completely destroy the city at the end of the Day of the Lord (Revelation 16:19; 18:21). The Antichrist will violently persecute Jews and Christians and God will execute His wrath upon the whole world because of it (Revelation 6:9-17; 16:6). Overall, many people are going to die (Revelation 9:15). Babylon the Great will set the stage for the Antichrist’s rise and the Lord’s final judgment upon sinful humanity. In that sense, the city will be guilty of all the blood of the saints and of all the blood shed upon the earth (Revelation 18:24; 19:2).
Another characteristic of Babylon the Great is that it will have a significant Jewish population. In his vision, John heard a voice from Heaven say “‘Come out of her, my people,’ lest you partake in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). This warning is nearly identical to one the Lord gave to the Jewish people when they were exiled in Babylon (Jeremiah 51:45).
This warning is going to come after the Antichrist attacks Babylon the Great with fire, but before an angel causes a tsunami that wipes the city off of the map during the Day of the Lord (Revelation 16:19; 18:21). A warning for Christians to avoid the judgment of Babylon the Great during the Day of the Lord would make no sense. After all, Christ-followers will be raptured before God’s wrath is directly poured out (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Finally, since Babylon the Great will rule over the world right before the Antichrist rises, the identity of Babylon the Great is closely tied to whatever global power exists at the time of the end that also fulfills the following criteria: it’s a port city, it has a strong Christian heritage, it’s a global financial center, it has an interventionist foreign policy, it promotes sinful living and it has a sizeable Jewish population.
With these characteristics in mind, what are some of the most common suggestions for identifying this mystery city?