This article is based on the DVD entitled, “The Identity of Mystery Babylon: Mecca or Rome?” The DVD was produced from a historic debate between New York Times bestselling author Joel Richardson and myself. Richardson believes that Mecca will be the great harlot city of Revelation 17, and I defended the popular and historic view that the city is Rome.
There are two end times judgments of Babylon in the book of Revelation. Revelation 17:16 makes an end of the Harlot’s world religion and Revelation 18:8-10 terminates the global economy. In Richardson’s end time scenario, these two judgments are one and the same. If they are not, then in theory his hypothesis about Mecca has significant problems, which will be uncovered at the end of this article. However, first, this article will explain how these appear to be two distinctly different judgments.
What is the logical chronological order of Revelation 13,17 and 18?
Many people read and interpret the book of Revelation in strict chronological order. They believe that the events of Rev. 13 occur prior to Rev. 17. Others believe that Rev. 17 and 18 describe the same judgment events against Babylon. However, the actual order of events makes most sense when these chapters are rearranged as Rev. 17, then Rev. 13, then Rev. 18. This sequencing illustrates that Rev. 17 and Rev. 18 are describing two different events with Rev. 13 inserted in-between.
Rev. 17 and Rev. 18 describe judgments upon end times Babylon. However, these two destructions do not appear to be describing the same event. Below is a quote from John Walvoord from his book called, Every Prophecy of the Bible.
“The Book of Revelation was written in the order in which the truth was revealed to John, but the events described are not necessarily in chronological order… This is especially true of Revelation 17 which probably occurred during the first half of the last seven years… Actually, the destruction of chapter 17 and the destruction of chapter 18 are two separate events by three-and-one-half years.”[i]
Walvoord separates the two events by 3.5 years, meaning the destruction of Rev. 17 happens at the middle of the Tribulation and the destruction of Rev. 18 happens at the end. Below is another related quote about the timing of the differing judgments in Rev. 17 and Rev. 18 from David Guzik.
“In my view, it is best to see them as intertwined, yet somewhat distinct. Religious Babylon of Revelation 17 is judged at the mid-point of the seven- year period of tribulation. Commercial Babylon (Rev. 18) is judged at the end of that period.”[ii]
Mankind experiences double trouble when it comes to end time’s Babylon. Two systems occur. First comes the global religion of the great whore in Rev. 17, then comes the beastly commercial system of the Antichrist in Rev. 13. The order of events that are outlined in the Scriptures are summarized below. They demonstrate the Rev. 17, 13,18 sequence.
- Harlot forms an alliance with the Antichrist ( 17:3-7)
- Harlot rules over a global religious system ( 17:15)
- Harlot martyrs’ believers in the past and future ( 17:6)
- 10 Kings hate and desolate the Harlot ( 17:16)
- 10 Kings transfer their power to the Antichrist ( 17:13,17)
- Antichrist then rules over the world ( 13:7-16)
- Antichrist sets up a cashless society ( 13:17)
- Antichrist martyrs’ future believers ( 13:15)
- Antichrist kingdom destroyed in 1 hour (Rev. 18:8-10)
- Antichrist destroyed by Christ (Rev. 19:11-21)
Rev. 17:15 informs that the Harlot rules worldwide over “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” At some point this global system becomes problematic for the Antichrist who exerts his power to have the Harlot’s false religion eliminated by the infamous Ten Kings. Upon desolating this religious system, they transfer all of its wealth and power over to the Antichrist. This concludes the first judgment of end times Babylon, which deals with the Harlot world religion. The desolation of the Harlot is explained in the verses below.
“Ten kings receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.” (Rev. 17:12-13)
“And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast.” (Rev. 17:16-17)
The Ten Kings are of one mind to eliminate the Harlot and to give their kingdom to the Antichrist. From his book, There’s a New World Coming, Hal Lindsey states the following about this transitional event.
“The question that logically comes to mind is, “When the Antichrist destroys this Harlot in the middle of the Tribulation, does he destroy some geographical location from which she rules? I personally don’t think so, since that would mean destroying his own kingdom, for it is in the Antichrist’s kingdom that the Harlot has dominated. For example, if someone today wanted to break the power of the Roman Catholic Church, he wouldn’t have to blow up Vatican City or the city of Rome. Assassinations of the Pope and the cardinals and bishops of the church, plus a destruction of some of the major seminaries and church buildings, and a confiscation of church property and wealth would finish the organization. I believe something like this will happen when the Antichrist destroys the false ecclesiastical system that seeks to smother him. He will purge its leaders and confiscate all its wealth. Then he will establish himself as the religious leader of the world and consolidate all worship in himself.”[iii]
With the Harlot dethroned in the Middle of the Tribulation, the Antichrist then sets up his global order! Clarence Larkin, (1850-1924 AD), puts it this way below.
“The “Ten Kings,” finding their power curtailed by the “Papal System” will “hate The Whore”, and strip her gorgeous apparel, confiscate her wealth (eat her flesh) and burn her churches and cathedrals with fire. (Rev. 17:16). This will occur at the time the worship of the Beast is set up in (Rev. 13).”[iv]
At this point the focus shifts from Rev. 17 to Rev. 13. The Antichrist, who was initially acting in a subservient position to the Harlot, is now the KING OF THE WORLD. Rev. 17:2 says the woman was sitting on the beast and in Rev. 17:7 the antichrist is carrying her to the heights of her global religion. This unholy alliance stops abruptly with the desolation of the Harlot by the 10 kings. Then we read about the Antichrist’s system in Rev. 13.
“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Rev. 13:16-17)
With the absence of the Harlot world religion, the Antichrist assumes worldwide control. He causes all, small, great, rich and poor to participate in his global order, utilizing a cashless society. This system is short lived, lasting for only 42 months according to Rev. 13:5. This period equals the span of the second half of the 7-year tribulation period. And at the end of this three and one-half years, commercial Babylon is destroyed in “ONE HOUR.” Now we turn our attention to Rev. 18 for the details of this second judgment upon end times Babylon.
- Antichrist kingdom destroyed in one day (Rev. 18:8)
- Kings of earth lament at their financial losses (Rev. 18:9)
- Babylonian system is destroyed in one hour (Rev. 18:10)
- Merchants of earth can’t conduct further commerce (Rev. 18:11)
- Merchants of earth lose all their riches (Rev. 18:12-17)
- Babylon the Great City is utterly destroyed (Rev. 18:19)
- Holy Apostles and prophets are vindicated (Rev. 18:20)
It’s important to note from the last bullet point that the city of end times Babylon needs to have been responsible for the martyrdom of at least two or more of the “holy apostles according to the scripture below.”
“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” (Rev. 18:20)
History tells us that the Apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome and the Apostle Peter was crucified under the Roman Emperor Nero. In addition, there is historical evidence that the Apostle Andrew was crucified by the order of a Roman governor and the Apostle James, the brother of the Apostle John was killed by a client king of Rome.
This beckons the question, “According to Revelation 18:20, how could this city be Mecca, Saudi Arabia, or other candidate cities like New York City or a rebuilt Babylon in Iraq?
The second destruction of Babylon, which deals with the end of the Antichrist’s commercial system is predicted below.
“Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her….For in one hour your judgment has come.’(Rev. 18:8 and 10, KJV)
“And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” (Rev. 18:21, KJV)
In his book, Revelation Unveiled, Tim LaHaye summarizes the two sequence of related end times events as follows;
“The prostitute (religious Babylon) is destroyed by “beast and the kings of the earth” who “hate the prostitute ” and kill her (Rev.17). This clears the way for Antichrist to get people to worship him (Rev. 13). She is destroyed In the middle of the Tribulation; Babylon, the governmental system will be destroyed at the end, when commercial Babylon is destroyed (Rev.18). With “Mystery Babylon ..the Mother of Prostitutes” out of the way, “all inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast.[v]
In summary, the list of distinguished prophecy teachers who believe these are two separate events and judgments include John Walvoord, David Guzik, Clarence Larkin, Tim LaHaye, J Vernon McGee, Hal Lindsey and Mark Hitchcock.
If these Bible teachers are correct in this belief this should require all eschatological views of end time Babylon to include two separate, distinct judgements upon the great city of Babylon in their end time scenarios. This would include even the views of Joel Richardson and Walid Shoebat, which we are about to look at next.
The Mecca – Mystery Babylon Connection
Now we will look at the Mecca connection to Mystery Babylon according to Joel Richardson. It is important to note that, to the best of my understanding, Joel Richardson believes the following;
- The Antichrist is a Muslim,
- Gog of Magog in Ezekiel 38 is the Islamic Antichrist,
- Gog of Magog comes from Turkey, rather than Russia, which is where most prophecy experts believe Gog hails from.
- Harlot Religion of Revelation 17 is Islam,
- Mecca is the “great city” of the Harlot in Revelation 17:18,
- Ten Kings in Revelation 17:16 are also the Magog invaders of Ezekiel 38:1-5,
- Ten Kings, as the Magog invaders, destroy the Harlot religion in Rev. 17:16,
- Magog invasion begins in the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation Period,
- Antichrist sets his throne up in Jerusalem in the Jewish Temple in the Middle of the Tribulation Period as a result of the Magog invasion,
- Gog and the Magog invaders get defeated at the end of the seven-year Tribulation Period at the time of Armageddon,
In an article posted on the web entitled, “Mystery Babylon Part 1- The Great Harlot: Revelation 17,” Joel Richardson gives us his interpretation of the judgment of the Ten Kings of Revelation 17:16.
“The Antichrist and his ten kingdom coalition will bring the Harlot to ruin, They will strip her of her wealth and her royalty and they will literally kill her and burn her with fire.”[vi]
From the 2008 book, God’s War on Terror – Islam, Prophecy and the Bible, by Walid Shoebat and Joel Richardson, Joel and Walid point out that Mecca, as the great city of Mystery Babylon, and in addition that Saudi Arabia will be destroyed as part of this judgment.
“The idea of Muslims attacking Mecca or Saudi Arabia is far from impossible. The day is drawing near when the emerging Beast Empire led by Turkey and Iran will attack Mecca and destroy the Arabian Harlot…In the Last-Days, a coalition of radical Islamic nations (alluding to the Magog invaders), will turn on and destroy Saudi Arabia.”[vii]
In fact, an article by Joel Richardson was posted on the World Net Daily website in 2010 with this provocative title, “Does the Bible Predict Destruction of Saudi Arabia?” In this article the judgment of Revelation 17:16 was referred to.
Then on page 264 of his book entitled, Mystery Babylon, Unlocking the Bible’s Greatest Prophetic Mystery, Richardson writes,
“Once the Antichrist has consolidated his power over the ten kings, he would turn his attention to Saudi Arabia. In fact, a careful reading of Ezek. 38–39 reveals that this coming Antichrist empire will include Iran, which makes an attack on Saudi Arabia all the more likely. No doubt, this is exactly why the Scriptures declare that “the ten horns . . . and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire”(Rev. 17:16)
And on page 265 of his Mystery Babylon book, he continues with,
“Is it possible that the kingdom (Saudi Arabia) could someday sustain a full-blown nuclear attack? If the oil fields on the eastern shores of the kingdom were taken out, it is reasonable to suggest that the entire Western economy would suffer tremendously, if it survived at all? Interestingly, such a massive and sudden blow is certainly in keeping with the description that we find in the book of Revelation of a city that “in one day . . . will be burned up with fire” (Rev. 18:8), never to be inhabited again, whose smoke will rise and smolder “forever and ever” (Rev. 18:21–19:3).
As you can see Joel Richardson has clearly combined the fiery events of Revelation 17:16 and Revelation 18: 8 & 21 into only one destruction event, in which not only the city of Mecca, but the entire nation of Saudi Arabia is apparently destroyed. He suggests the means of the destruction could be a full-blown nuclear attack led by Turkey and Iran and as a result, the city of Mecca will never be inhabited again.
Could Joel and Walid be incorrect in their chronological order of events? What if the correct chronological order of events would require that Revelation 17:16 and Revelation 18:8-10 must be understood to be two entirely separate judgment events, which are separated by the span of at least three and one-half years? Wouldn’t this create substantial problems for Joel Richardson and Walid Shoebat in their Islamic end time scenario?
Below is the sequence of events that I believe will happen.
- Harlot forms an unholy alliance with the Antichrist and rules over the nations during the first three and one-half years of the seven-year Tribulation Period in Rev. 17.
- 10 Kings hate and desolate the Harlot and transfer their power to the Antichrist at the mid-point of the seven-year Tribulation period in Rev. 17:13, 16-17.
- Antichrist rules over the world economy once the Harlot is desolated during the remaining second three and one-half years of the Tribulation Period in Rev. 13. This is explained in the verses below.
“And he (the Antichrist) was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.” (Rev. 13:5). “It was granted to him (the Antichrist) to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” (Rev. 13:7).
- Antichrist’s kingdom is destroyed in one hour on one day forever at the end of the seven-year Tribulation Period in Rev. 18:8-10, 21.
The Mecca is Mystery Babylon Problems
What are the ramifications if the sequence of events just described in my scenario takes place? What are the ramifications if the great city of the Harlot of Mecca in Saudi Arabia will be utterly-destroyed in Revelation 17:16 at the mid-point of the Tribulation Period?
If Mecca gets desolated at the middle of the Tribulation period how will;
- Muslims worldwide fulfill their required pilgrimage to Mecca during the second half of the Tribulation Period as one of the Five pillars of their Muslim faith?
- How could they pray toward Mecca 5 times a day?
- How can these religious Muslims now do their required series of rituals of the hajj performed in and around a city that no longer exists?
Moreover, If God put it in the hearts of the Islamic Antichrist and the ten kings of a coalition of Muslim nations to utterly destroy Mecca, at the middle of the Tribulation Period in Revelation 17:16-17, then would this now make it impossible for Mecca to be destroyed again at the end of the Tribulation Period in Rev. 18:8 & 21?
Also, is it likely that after the destruction of Mecca by devout Muslim followers loyal to the Ten Islamic Kings in Revelation 17:16 that the religion of Islam would skyrocket in popularity around the globe and become a worldwide worship movement centered around the worship of an Islamic Antichrist Rev. 13:7?
Another important consideration is that the Ten Kings believe it is necessary to destroy the Harlot in Rev. 17:16 to transfer her power and wealth and to give their kingdom to the Antichrist in Rev. 17:17. This transfer enables the Antichrist to establish his cashless economic system in Rev. 13:15-17. If they are rejoicing over their victory of Mecca and Saudi Arabia at the time of the Harlot’s destruction, then why are they weeping in Rev. 18:9 at the judgment of Rev. 18:8, 10?
“The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’ “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: (Rev. 18:8-11)
Although the kings of the earth mentioned in the verses above include more than the Ten Kings, the Ten Kings are likely among those weeping. What goes wrong that causes these kings to weep? In Rev. 17:16 they are rejoicing, but in Rev. 18:8 they are mourning. Rev. 18:9-18 explains that the global economy has been destroyed. That’s why the kings and merchants of the earth weep in lament.
This makes logical sense if the Rev. 18:8-10 judgment destroys the Antichrist’s global system. As a result of this judgment, no one will be able to buy or sell at that point, even if they did previously take the mark of the Beast in Rev. 13:17. There are no more goods to purchase!
However, Joel Richardson believes that Rev. 18:8-10 is dealing with the destruction of the Harlot’s great wealth, which is centered primarily in Saudi Arabia. Below are some quotes from his Mystery Babylon book.
The merchants of the earth have grown rich from all the goods that she purchases.” Page 122
“Both the” merchants” (18:3) and the “shipmaster(s)” (18:17) have “become rich through the abundance of her luxury” (18:3 NKJ) Page 123
“The earth’s merchants have grown rich from all the goods that she purchases. This is a perfect description of Saudi Arabia.” Page 267
If Joel Richardson is correct that Rev. 18:8,10 represent the same judgment as Rev. 17:16, then the world’s economy is decimated when the Ten Kings destroy Saudi Arabia and that leaves the Antichrist with no ability to establish his commercial system. No, it makes more sense that the judgment of Rev. 17:16 happens prior, which provides the Antichrist time and enables him to establish and rule over a global economy. Otherwise, he is left to mop up the mess of the Ten Kings destruction of the harlot and with little to no more time on his hands to do so.
[i] Every Prophecy of the Bible, pages 603 and 612.
[ii] Verse by Verse Commentary Revelation by John Guzik, page 221.
[iii] There’s a New World Coming by Hal Lindsey, page 241.
[iv] Clarence Larkin, “The Book of Revelation,” page 153.
[v] Tim LaHaye, “Revelation Unveiled,” page 277.
[vi] Web link to Richardson’s article: http://www.tedmontgomery.com/bblovrvw/revelation/MysteryBabylon/01.html
[vii] God’s War on Terror, pages 407-408.