In Revelation 16 we read of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of the kingdom. This event is described as a great earthquake which will also involve the destruction of a city called “great Babylon”. Chapters 17 and 18 of the Apocalypse are about this Babylon. In chapter 17 we are given a detailed description of Babylon so that we are left in no doubt as to its identity. In chapter 18 Babylon is destroyed, to make way for the full establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The ancient city of Babylon lies in ruins beside the river Euphrates in present day Iraq. So how is Babylon to be destroyed in the future? Is the ancient city of Babylon going to be rebuilt so that it can be destroyed after the return of Jesus? The answer is that in the Apocalypse, Babylon is a symbolic name. When we delve into the details of Revelation 17 we are left in no doubt that Babylon is synonymous with the Catholic system.

The Identity of the System

How can we be so sure that the system described in Revelation 17 and destroyed in Revelation 18 is the Catholic system? We are given a number of clues. The Apocalypse is, of course, largely a symbolic book. However, many symbols are spelled out very clearly within the book itself. For example, in Revelation 17 we are informed that the waters that the whore sits on (v1) represent “peoples, and multitudes, and nations and tongues” (v15). The system clearly transcends national boundaries, is wealthy (v4) and has been involved in persecuting the saints (v6). The system is also the progenitor of a whole plethora of offshoot churches (v5).

The woman is in fact specifically identified with the city of Rome: “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18). For the moment let us consider this last point from the point of view of our brethren and sisters who first received the Apocalypse. There would be absolutely no doubt in their minds about the identity of the city that reigned over the earth. They wouldn’t even have to think about it, it was obviously Rome! In fact the boundaries of the city of Rome were considered to extend to the borders of the empire, which is why France is described as being a tenth of the city in Revelation 11:13.

The beast that the woman (Rome) sits on has seven heads and ten horns which immediately indicates that this is the same beast as depicted in Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 and is therefore what we often refer to as Daniel’s fourth beast. In Revelation 17 we are given some specific details concerning the seven heads. The head of an animal controls the animal and therefore it would make sense to assume that the seven heads in some way represent successive phases of the leadership of the Roman empire.

In fact we are told this in Revelation 17:9: “The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the whore sitteth”. Here we have Rome clearly identified once again. It would be well known to the subjects of the Roman empire that Rome was built on seven hills (as seen on old coins). We read that the seventh head would only exist for a limited period and would then be replaced by an eighth head, which would in fact be the sixth head revitalised. We have a parallel account in Revelation 13:3: “And I saw one of the heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed …”.

We are given yet more detail when we go back to Daniel 7 where we have a further expansion of the drama of the sixth/eighth head. This is where the ten horns come in. The beast initially has ten horns, but after a period of time an eleventh horn crops up and uproots three of the original ten horns. The eleventh horn speaks blasphemies against God which clearly identifies it as the Catholic system. What do the horns represent? We are told in Daniel 7:24 that they represent kings. When the Western Roman empire was over-run by the Goths in AD 476 it devolved into ten kingdoms—1 Ostrogoths, 2 Vandals, 3 Visigoths, 4 Burgundians, 5 Gepidae, 6 Lombards, 7 Franks, 8 Suevi, 9 Alans, 10 Bavarians. Some of these names survive to the present day, for example Bavaria is a region of southern Germany.

Prior to the time of the writing of the Apocalypse (c AD 96), Rome had had five different types of leadership, 1 Regal, 2 Consular, 3 Dictatorial, 4 Decemviral, 5 Tribunital. These correspond to the first five of the seven heads. At the time John was writing in Patmos, the sixth head was current. This was the Imperial system which lasted from AD 31—AD 476. In AD 476 the imperial sixth head was wounded by the barbarian hordes from beyond the Rhine when Odoacer, king of the Heruli, overthrew the Roman emperor Romulus Augustus. The barbarians set up their headquarters in the city of Ravenna, effectively leaving the Bishop of Rome in control of the city of Rome. It was during this period that the Bishop of Rome began to develop his Popish character. He started off as first among equals and in time ascribed to himself the title Vicar of God.

The Bishop of Rome appealed to the emperor in Constantinople in the East to get the barbarian kings off his back. The first step was taken by the Eastern emperor Justinian, who between 530–533 published legislation devoted to strengthening the Catholic Church and sanctioning the Bishop of Rome’s claim to be the head of the Church, or Pope. Later on, Pope Leo III fled from Rome to escape the Lombards. He formed an alliance with Charles the Great (Charlemagne), King of the Franks (French), who defeated the Lombards so that the Pope could return home. (Incidentally, this was the first of the three horns that were plucked up by the Papal horn, the other two being the Vandals and Ostrogoths). As we read in The Apocalypse and History, one good turn deserves another, and so during mass on Christmas day AD 800 in St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, Pope Leo III unexpectedly crowned Charlemagne as Roman Emperor. The Pope, of course, had no human or divine authority to crown Charlemagne as emperor, and in this audacious act we have an example of 2 Thessalonians 2:4, ie the Pope misappropriating to himself the authority of God (Dan 2:21; 4:32). This moment marked the final healing of the sixth head, the removal of the seventh head, and the beginning of the eighth head, or Holy Roman Empire styled Apocalyptically the “image of the beast”. (However, as is often noted, the Holy Roman Empire was neither Roman nor holy!)

Although the Western Roman Empire came to an end in AD 476, the Eastern Roman Empire, centred in Constantinople (later called Byzantium and then Istanbul) continued on until 1453. Under the auspices of the eastern emperors, the Papal system arose in the West. In many ways it was similar to Imperial Rome, however instead of an emperor there was a Pope. The Roman legions garrisoned throughout the empire were replaced by bishops, part of the Holy See—in other words the bishops were the Pope’s eyes—just like the emperor’s generals! Hence, in Revelation 13 the Catholic system is described as the image of the beast. How succinct and cogent are the symbols of the Apocalypse!

The notable horn held sway over Europe for 1260 years. In Revelation 13:5 this period is given as 42 months = 42 x 30 = 1260 days in prophetic time, representing 1260 years in real time. In Daniel 7: 25 this same time period is given as “a time and times and the dividing of time”. A Jewish time (see Strong’s concordance) is a year of 360 days. Therefore we have a single time (360) plus two times (2 x 360 = 720) and a divided or half a time (360/2 = 180), putting all this together we have 360 + 720 + 180 = 1260. The fact that we have two methods of arriving at the same time period gives us confidence that we have the correct interpretation.

When did this 1260 year period start and end? There are a few possible start and end dates, but the most obvious is from the legislation of Justinian 530–533 to the legislation of the French National Assembly 1790–93 at the time of the French Revolution (530 + 1260 = 1790). The legislation of the National Assembly nullified Justinian’s legislation and was the beginning of the end of the Pope’s temporal power which finally ceased in 1870—incidentally exactly 1260 years after the decree of Phocas (AD 610) which strengthened Justinian’s legislation concerning the authority of the Pope. This period is often secularly referred to as the Dark Ages, because enquiry and the advancement of knowledge were suppressed. The beginning of the end started with the Reformation in the sixteenth century when men, enlightened by the Bible, threw off the shackles of the Church which had controlled all aspects of life.

God continued the process of curtailing the pow¬er of the Catholic Church through the French emperor Napoleon. This period of history is described for us in the first five vials (Rev 16), beginning with the French revolution in 1789, and followed by the British naval blockade of the entire Mediterranean after a number of British naval victories, the most well known being Nelson’s victory at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. As a result of this, Napoleon was ejected from Northern Africa and continued in Europe to fulfil God’s purpose in bringing the Papal domination of Europe to an end. The Pope’s temporal power finally came to an end in 1870.

Of course, the Papacy has survived beyond 1870. The important difference is that the Papacy is no longer backed up by an army, as was the case during the 1260 years of the Holy Roman Empire. However, if anything, Papal domination has increased in scope. We often hear the term globalisation with respect to the world economy. This means that the national economies of the world are interconnected. The Catholic Church has also become globalised. The present Pope is the most travelled Pope in history. It is probably more accurate to say that the Catholic Church has become more globalised in recent times. The globalisation of the Catholic Church started way ahead of the economic globalisation of the world (witness the Catholic Jesuit missions of South and North America by which vast areas of those lands were brought under European control). It is obvious from the description of the Catholic Church in Revelation 17 and 18 that it is very much a global system when it is destroyed by Christ and the saints.

The Turning Back of the European Clock

After the return of Jesus and Armageddon, in a certain sense the European clock will be turned back to the days of the Holy Roman Empire. The nations of Europe will militarily back the Papacy. Revelation 17:12–14: “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them…”. The Catholic nations of Europe will throw their lot in with the Catholic Church to fight against Christ and the saints. (NB Britain will not be amongst these nations, as she is not a Catholic nation). The period when the European Union backs the Papacy is concurrent with the standing up of the image of Daniel chapter 2.

The Destruction of the System

Two reasons are given for the destruction of the Catholic system to remove its corrupting influence on the nations of the earth (Rev 18:3) and to avenge the persecution of the saints during the dark ages (Rev 18:20). A relevant question is how long will all this take? In Revelation 18:21 we read of a mighty angel hurling a millstone into the sea which represents the destruction of the city of Babylon. We get the impression from this that the judgment will be quick. It is quite possible that the actual city of Rome will be destroyed by some catastrophe, maybe an earthquake (a major fault line runs close to the city), or possibly a volcanic eruption similar to Pompeii.

However, although Rome may be destroyed quickly, it appears that it will take longer to rid the whole world of Catholicism. We are told that it will take “one hour” of prophetic time to destroy the system (Rev 17:12; 18:10,17,19;14:7). What period of time does a prophetic hour represent? Although it is conceivable that the city of Rome might be destroyed in a literal hour, it is difficult to imagine that the entire Catholic Church across the world could be dismantled this quickly. When we investigate further, we find that the hour represents a longer period of time. We know that one day of prophetic time usually represents one year of real time. If we take this as being the case then one hour would represent one twelfth of a year or one month. This is also a bit short, and so what we can do is do another conversion and convert the 30 days of a month into 30 years (a kind of double gearing ). This might sound a bit far fetched. However, we have a kind of ‘calibration scale’ in Revelation8:1: “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour”. From history, we know that this was a fourteen year period of peace in the reign of Constantine. Fourteen years is very close to fifteen years. From this we can infer that one hour of Apocalyptic prophetic time represents fifteen years.

We might think that this is an excessively long time. However, there is clearly a lot of work to be done to establish the kingdom. Eventually, the earth will be “filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh” (Hab 2:14). This clearly will not happen overnight. The destruction of the Catholic system is all part of filling the earth with the knowledge of God’s glory. The fact that a lot of effort will be required to remove the system is indicated by the term “mighty angel” in Revelation 18:21.

The length of time required to eradicate Catholicism from the earth also indicates the mercy of God in allowing people time to change. Maybe the situation will be similar to when Jonah preached to Nineveh (Matt 12:41). The Gospel of the Millennial Age will be preached all over the world and cities will be given time to repent.

The Necessity of God’s Judgments to Establish the Kingdom

It is very clear from scripture that severe judgments are to be poured out on the earth including the Catholic system. A question that we might have is, why does it have to be this way? Why couldn’t the system be dismantled peacefully by the preaching of the Gospel of the Age? Surely after the destruction of the Northern host during Armageddon and the splitting of the Mount of Olives there will be no doubt that God has intervened in the affairs of men. Surely the Pope and his Cardinals will realize the error of their ways and submit to Christ. The sad truth of the matter is that the Catholic system is not about salvation but about power over people. If its sole concern were the spiritual well being of its flock then no doubt they would submit to the rule of Christ. However, this is patently not the case. As Brother Thomas points out, the main concern of the system is worldly power and fleecing the flock!

The events foreshadowed need to happen before the kingdom can be fully established. We read in Isaiah 26:9, “… when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness”; and Isaiah 32:17, “the work of righteousness shall be peace; the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever”. In order to establish peace on the earth, first there must be judgment. This clear scriptural principle is enshrined in the name of Melchizedek—first king of righteousness and then king of peace.

In Revelation 18:9–10 we have a fascinating insight into the nations learning righteousness. “And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come.” The nations will be learning that God is very displeased with the Catholic system and are therefore keeping their distance. This indicates that they have taken a significant step in learning about the righteousness of God. People are gradually realising that they have inherited lies. “The Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit” (Jer 16:19).

The Final Note

The Roman Papal system has enjoyed preeminence and worldwide acclaim for many centuries. Its presentation is an historic masquerade. Its teachings are a string of lies and mysteries. Its holy orders have camouflaged centuries of corruption and immorality. Its multimillion crucifixes have disguised the cruel torture and death that it has organised or performed upon the most faithful people that earth has known. Isaiah promised that “the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain” (Isa 26:21).

And the final note of Revelation chapter 18 is this: “And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” (v 24).

God has not forgotten them!

What a wonderful thing; and what a wonderful thing it will be to see them and speak with them.