Babylon stands for all that is the world, as over against the call of the heart of God. . . . There is a form of Babylon which is political, and there is a form which is religious.1
What is before us now is the mystic Babylon, that huge system of spiritual adultery and corruption which holds sway over the whole prophetic scene. It is scarcely possible [writing before 1860!] to conceive of a huge system of wickedness eagerly embraced by the nations once called Christian. It will nevertheless be so.2
[Isaiah Isa. 13:6 is a] prefigurement of the final destruction of Babel (Babylon), connoting prophetically the disordered political and governmental system that characterizes the earth during the times of the Gentiles (Luke Luke 21:24; Rev. Rev. 18:1-24+). This political Babylon, together with ecclesiastical Babylon . . . shall be destroyed at the second advent of Christ. Political Babylon stands in contrast to the divine order (Isa. Isa. 11:1-Isa. 12:6) with Israel in her own land, the center of spiritual blessing and the divine world government of the King-Messiah (Isa. Isa. 2:1-5).3
The ancient Babylon is better understood here as the archetypal head of all entrenched worldly resistance to God. Babylon is a trans-historical reality including idolatrous kingdoms as diverse as Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, Babylon, Tyre, Nineveh, and Rome. Babylon is an eschatological symbol of satanic deception and power; it is a divine mystery that can never be wholly reducible to empirical earthly institutions. It may be said that Babylon represents the total culture of the world apart from God.4
5 Barnhouse, normally a very reliable commentator, is interesting in this regard. After a lengthy and informative exposition of most of Revelation Rev. 17:1+ wherein he holds the Harlot to be an ecclesiastical system, he concludes some nineteen pages of discussion with an exposition of the 17th verse. There the commentary ends and runs off into a blank page! Not only doesnt he comment on the last verse, verse 18, he doesnt even mention it! MacArthur is similarly silent at the end of his commentary on Revelation Rev. 17:1+, commenting on verse Rev. 17:17+ but not 18. Why? We can only guess because this verse stands as a contradiction to their schemes of interpretation which take the Harlot to be an ecclesiastical system. For verse Rev. 17:18+ tells us that the woman is that great city.