Are there two Babylons?

Are Revelation 17 and 18 dealing with two different aspects of Babylon?

Babylon is mentioned twice (Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19) before chapter 17. Both mentions relate to the judgment of Babylon. Some translations omit "city" in chapter 14: "‘Great Babylon has fallen, has fallen, which of the wine of the fury of her fornication has made all nations drink’" (14:8, JND). In the second reference, the context (16:19) emphasizes the city: "the great city" (Jerusalem), "the cities of the nations," and "great Babylon," referring to the literal city. This is parallel to the references of chapter 17 and 18. Chapter 17 highlights her "abominations" (vv. 4, 5) and her opposition to the saints and martyrs (v 6). Chapter 17 likewise unfolds a mystery, truth uniquely revealed by God. God declares Babylon to be the mother of harlots and of abominations - the source of all spiritual impurity. This corresponds to the emphasis in chapter 14. Five times in chapter 18, Babylon is noted as a "great city" (vv. 10, 16, 18, 19, 21), the same emphasis as in chapter 16, verse 19.

The two initial references to Babylon refer to judgments at two different times. Chapter 14 refers to a judgment before the instigation of the "mark of the beast" (14:11, see 13:17) in the middle of the 7 year period. The second reference is the climax of the "vial judgments," bringing us to the end of the seven years. This likewise corresponds to the judgments in chapters 17 and 18. The Harlot is destroyed by the 10 kings at the time when they give their kingdom to the beast (vv 16, 17). The word "for" at the beginning of verse 17 connects the actions of the two verses. This is the "middle of the week," when the Beast reaches the summit of his power. From the connection of chapter 18 with the beginning of chapter 19 (see vv 1-3), the destruction of the city (chapter 18) is just before the return of Christ to the earth. Further, the judgment in chapter 17 is at the hands of the 10 kings and the beast (v 16), while "the kings of the earth" (including at least the 10 kings) bewail the destruction of the city (Revelation 18:9) by a direct intervention of God (18:20, 21).

Chapter 17 interprets the Harlot as a symbol: "The woman . . . is the great city." Noted as sitting on many waters (v 1, interpreted as peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues, v 15), the beast (v 3), and seven mountains (v 9), the woman exerts influence thus described demographically, politically, and historically respectively. The Harlot, therefore, pictures the spiritual institution which characterizes the city. Chapter 18 presents the commercial enterprise of the city.

The spiritually abominable institution of unholy worship will be destroyed to open the way for the worship of the Beast, which marks the beginning of "the great tribulation" (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14). The commercial character of the proud and morally corrupt city will continue until the Lord judges the city, removing every vestige of the Harlot and preparing for the introduction of the Bride.

D. Oliver