MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT
The important question to be answered is that of the identity of Babylon. We get a good idea of what Babylon really is by noting that she is a whore.
Now the question is, what does a woman, especially an adulteress represent in Scripture ? We are very clearly told that a woman represents a church. A pure woman represents God's church and a whore represents an apostate church. In the OT the people of Israel were often collectively referred to as a woman. Sometimes it is as God's unfaithful wife. Hos 2:19-20, Eze 23 Isa 54:1-8 etc. At other times Israel is as a young pure woman (Eze 16:8:14) These two similar yet different metaphors are used to describe Israel in her apostate and pure states respectively. This metaphor is carried over into the New Testament, the church was often referred to as God's bride (2 Cor 11:2, Eph 5:21-23, Parable 10 virgins etc) So the metaphor of a woman is used consistently to describe a church.
In Revelation 12 we find a pure woman, representing God's pure church into which Jesus Christ is born, and which is then persecuted for a period of 1260 days (or years, Num 14:34, Eze 4:6 ) by a certain red dragon which we shall investigate a little further on.
In Revelation 17 we find however a harlot, an adulterous woman who persecutes God's saints. This can only refer to an apostate church, who appears to be God's church, but is in adultery with the things of the world. What does spiritual fornication/adultery represent. Adultery is an illicit relationship between two parties. Spiritual adultery is the mixing or the joining of the sacred and the profane, the holy and the worldly, the church and state.
We also note what this harlot is sitting on.
How very interesting! Here we have this RED beast with 7 heads and 10 horns. Did we note in Rev 12 that it is a RED dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns that persecutes the pure woman (God's faithful church) for 1260 years? Beasts are always used in Scripture to represent the governments of the world—the state. Guess what! It is the apostate woman that rides on this very same dragon; in fact it is she that is directing the action because it is she that gets drunk with the blood of the saints being who are persecuted by the beast she sits on. What does the beast represent ?
Apart from effectively being the same beast that we find in Daniel 8, Rev 17 gives us some clues. The 7 heads are 7 mountains (v 9) on which the apostate church sits, and the woman is also a great city which would rule over the earth for a long time (v 18). How many cities of any long term consequence do you know are famous for being situated on 7 hills ? We also find this same 7 headed 10 horned blasphemous beast in Rev 13, to make matters more interesting.
We also note that Babylon has many daughters. What would this be but other churches which have arisen from her that have the same persecuting characteristics and doctrines as their mother.
Now I should say something about the pure church outlined in Rev 12. The beast (in conjunction with Babylon) is rather unhappy about the pure woman so...
This is fascinating because in Rev 14 we find an interesting message that is given to the world by some angels :
So the whole world is going to partake of the spirit which the harlot Babylon has to offer and of course we are told in Rev 13 that "all the world wondered after the beast", and they worshipped the beast. We see the whole world going after and coming together in fellowship for a common worship. Interesting, isn't it. Any way, lets not get side-tracked.
Oh, yes, we all want to steer clear of that don't we!, but in the same chapter our attention is then brought back after looking at Babylon, to the pure woman, because we are told again:
Why then does the Scripture present this contention between the apostate woman and God's true bride ? In Rev 18 we find another angel with another important message regarding Babylon. and he says,
So we find that all nations have followed after this woman and have merged the things of God with the things of the world, in an unholy matrimony, and worldliness and materialism has flooded in together with all sorts of uncleanliness and sin (such as idolatry). A big union, all in a common worship. What does God say ?
Come out, of her, don't participate in that unholy system which claims to be God's spouse, and appears to be of Christ, while simultaneously enjoying the pleasures of worldliness and sin.
Yes you are right, there is a true visible church, and its so visible that its easy to see, in fact the Scripture tells us what it looks like, to make sure we don't end up on the side of Ms B. drunk with the blood of the saints.