Case II: Rome
The fact that the whore of Babylon is referred to as a mystery likely means that we cannot be completely certain as to her identity. The passage does give us some clues, however. Revelation 17:9 explains, “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.”In ancient times, the city of Rome was known as the city on seven hills because there are seven prominent hills that surround the city. So, whatever the whore of Babylon is, we can know that it is somehow connected with Rome. Revelation 17:15 tells us, “Then the angel said to me, The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.”The whore of Babylon will have great worldwide influence, over people and nations. Verses 10-14 describe a series of eight and then ten kings who affiliate with the beast. The whore of Babylon will at one time have control over these kings (Revelation 17:18), but at some point the kings will turn on her and destroy her (Revelation 17:16). So, can the mystery of the whore of Babylon be solved? Yes, at least partially. The whore of Babylon is an evil world system, controlled by the antichrist, during the last days before Jesus’ return. It is somehow connected with Rome, perhaps either centered in Rome, or being a form of revived Roman Empire. The whore of Babylon also has religious connotations spiritual adultery with the beast being the focus of an ungodly end times religious system, also centered in Rome. Again, the whore of Babylon is a mystery but we can be fairly certain about the nature and identity of the great and terrible whore of Babylon.
The woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. … Here is the mind which hath wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth.” (Revelation 17:18,9). A woman rides the beast, and that woman is a city built on seven hills that reigns over the kings of the earth! Was ever in all of history such a statement made? John immediately equates the readers’ acceptance of this revelation with ” wisdom.” We dare not pass over such a disclosure casually. It merits our careful and prayerful attention. Here is no mystical or allegorical language but an unambiguous statement in plain words: “The woman…is that great city. There is no justification for seeking some other hidden meaning. Yet books have been written and sermons preached insisting that “Mystery Babylon” is the United States. That is clearly not the case, for the United States could be an end-time Beast, though history will have the last word. Moreover, the woman is a city.
Furthermore, she is a city built on seven hills. That specification eliminates ancient Babylon. Only one city has for more than 2000 years been known as the city on seven hills. That city is Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “It is within the city of Rome, called the city of seven hills, that the entire area of Vatican State proper is now confined” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Thomas Nelson, 1976, s.v. “Rome”). There are, of course, other cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, that were also built on seven hills. Therefore, John provides at least more characteristics to limit the identification to Rome alone. We will examine each one in detail in subsequent chapters. However, as a preview of where we are going, we will limit them now and discuss each one briefly. As we shall see, there is only one city on the earth which, in both historical and contemporary perspectives, passes every test John gives, including its identification as Mystery Babylon. That city is Rome, and more specifically, Vatican City.
The names of these seven hills are: