Babylon: Ecclesiastical, Political, Or What? -- By: Thomas R. Edgar

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:3 (Sep 1982)
Article: Babylon: Ecclesiastical, Political, Or What?
Author: Thomas R. Edgar

Babylon: Ecclesiastical, Political, Or What?

Thomas R. Edgar*

As the Church moves closer and closer to the end times it behooves believers to observe any signs of the approaching end of the age. One of the signs often referred to is the world church movement, which is identified with the present ecumenical thrust. The basis for the belief in a world church or “super-church” as a sign of the end is a specific interpretation of Revelation 17. The “great harlot” is considered to be an ecclesiastical system in chap. 17, and the entity in chap. 18 is considered to be the final world governmental system. Chapter 17 is “ecclesiastical Babylon” whereas chap. 18 is “political Babylon.” In other words Revelation 17 and 18 is are believed to discuss two separate entities.1 This interpretation is held by many well-known expositors including Pentecost2 and Walvoord (who entitles his remarks on chap. 17 “The Destruction of Ecclesiastical Babylon”).3 Smith believes that chaps. 17–18 refer to one entity and that this is ecclesiastical.4 The idea that Revelation 17 refers to an ecclesiastical system should be examined in the Biblical text to see if it is valid.

I. Chapters 17 And 18 Concern One Entity

One of the clearest facts regarding these chapters is that they concern one and the same entity. There is in fact no exegetical basis of any sort upon which to differentiate them. The passage deals with one subject from Rev 16:19 to 19:3. This subject is the destruction of Babylon, the great city, by the beast.

1. The context, beginning with Rev 16:19 and extending to 19:3, uses the terms for this entity interchangeably: 16:19, great city; 16:19, Babylon the great; 17:1, great harlot; 17:5, Babylon the great; 17:16, the harlot; 17:18, the great city; 18:2, Babylon the gre...

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