1.3. The Identity of Babylon

Having established that historical Babylon never faced the destruction predicted in Scripture and that such destruction will occur during the time of the end, we now turn to the question of the identity of Babylon.1 It must be observed that this question does not arise primarily from Scripture, but from unbelief. For an examination of Scripture shows no confusion as to the identity of Babylon. Babylon is simply Babylon! Yet, the divergence between what history records and Scripture predicts concerning this city has caused many to question whether “Babylon” is really to be understood in its literal sense or whether it might not be symbolic, denoting some other physical location or even an abstract spiritual or political movement—not a city at all. The collision between God’s word and history to date has caused many to abandon the literal interpretation of the identity of Babylon in search of other solutions.

Five prominent approaches for identifying Babylon in Revelation Rev. 17:1+-Rev. 18:1+ [include]: the world, Jerusalem, Rome, an end time religious system, and futuristic, literal, rebuild Babylon. Other interpretive options exists, such as viewing Babylon as the Roman Catholic Church or as an eclectic amalgamation of two or more of these views.2

We will attempt to acquaint the reader with the most popular views together with what we believe to be their weaknesses in comparison with the literal view. There is considerable overlap between some of the views so our treatment is general and intended mainly to serve as background information for understanding why we believe Babylon is best understood as the literal city on the banks of the Euphrates River. For a more thorough treatment of the alternative views, see [Ibid.].


1 Some hold that it is neither possible nor important to identify Babylon: “There is no way to be really sure of the identity of the city, nor is its identity important.”—Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 14:20. We would ask why God gave such a large body of information concerning her, if we were not to be concerned about her identity?

2 Andy Woods, What is the Identity of Babylon In Revelation 17-18?.

3 Ibid.