By: Dave Hunt
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. 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. Even Catholic apologist Karl Keating admits that Rome has long been known as Babylon. Keating claims that Peter's statement "The church here in Babylon, sends you her greeting" (from 1 Peter 5:13) proves that Peter was writing from Rome. He explains further:
"Babylon is a code word for Rome. It is used that way six times in the last book of the Bible [four of the six are in chapters 17 and 18] and in extra-biblical works such as Syblling Oracles (5, 159f.), and Apocalypse of Baruch (ii, 1), and 4 Esdras (3:1).
"Eusebius Pamphilius, writing about 303, noted that `it is said that Peter's first epistle ... was composed at Rome itself; and that he himself indicates this, referring to the city figuratively as Babylon" (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians," Kgnatius Press, 1988, p. 200).
As for "Mystery," that name imprinted on the woman's forehead is the perfect designation for Vatican City. Mystery is at the very heart of Roman Catholicism, for the words "Mysterium Fidev pronounced at the alleged transformation of the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ to the enigmatic apparitions of Mary around the world. Every sacrament, from baptism to extreme unction, manifests the mysterious power which the faithful must believe the priests wield, but for which there is no visible evidence. Rome's new Catechism explains that liturgy "aims to initiate souls into the mystery of Christ (It is 'mystagogy.')" and that all of the Church's liturgy is a "mystery" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Wanderer Press, 1994).
WHO IS THE WHORE?
The first thing we are told about the woman is that she is a "whore" (Revelation 17:1), that earthly kings "have committed fornication" with her (verse 2), and that "all the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (verse 3). Why would a city be called a whore and be accused of having committed fornication with kings? Such an indictment would never be made of London or Moscow or Paris, or any other ordinary city. It wouldn't make sense.
Fornication and adultery are used in the Bible in both the physical and the spiritual sense. Of Jerusalem God said, "How is the faithful city become a harlot!" (Isaiah 1:21). Israel, whom God had set apart from all other peoples to be holy for His purposes, had entered into unholy, adulterous alliances with the idols-worshiping nations about her. She had "committed adultery with stones and with stocks [idols] (Jeremiah 3:9); "and with their idols have they committed adultery" (Ezekiel 23:37). The entire chapter of Ezekiel 16 explains Israel's spiritual adultery in detail, both with heathen nations and with their false gods, as do many other passages. There is no way that a city could engage in literal, fleshly fornication. Thus we can only conclude that John, like the prophets in the Old Testament, is using the term in its spiritual sense.
The city, therefore, must claim a spiritual relationship with God. Otherwise such an allegation would be meaningless. Though it is built on seven hills, there would be no reason to accuse Rio de Janeiro of spiritual fornication. It makes no claim of having a special relationship with God. And though Jerusalem has that relationship, it cannot be the woman riding on the beast, for it is not built on seven hills. Nor does it meet the other criteria by which this woman is to be identified.
Against only one other city in history could a charge of fornication be leveled. That city is Rome, and more specifically Vatican City. She claims to have been the worldwide headquarters of Christianity since its beginning and maintains that claim to this day. Her pope enthroned in Rome claims to be the exclusive representative of God, the Vicar of Christ. Rome is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, and in that too she is unique.
IN BED WITH RULERS
Not only does Rome's Pope call himself the Vicar of Christ, but the Church he heads claims to be the one true Church and the bride of Christ. Christ's Bride, (claims also that outside Catholic Church there is no salvation) whose hope is to join her Bridegroom in heaven, is to have no earthly ambitions. Yet the Vatican is obsessed with earthly enterprise, as history proves; and in furtherance of these goals it has been, exactly as John foresaw in his vision, engaged in adulterous relationships with the kings of the earth.
Christ said to His disciples, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19). The Catholic Church, however, is very much of this world. Her popes have built an unrivaled worldwide empire of property, wealth, and influence. Nor is empire-building an abandoned feature of the past. We have already seen the Vatican II clearly states that the Roman Catholic Church today still ceaselessly seeks to bring under its control all mankind and all their goods.
Popes have long claimed dominion over the world and its peoples. Pope Gregory XI's papal bull or 1372 (In Coena Domini) claimed papal dominion over the entire Christian world, secular and religious, and excommunicated all who failed to obey the popes and to pay them taxes. In Coena was confirmed by subsequent popes and in 1568 Pope Pius V swore that it was to remain an eternal law.
Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) claimed that all undiscovered lands belonged to the Roman Pontiff, for him to dispose of as he pleased in the name of Christ as His vicar. King John II of Portugal was convinced that in his Bull Romanus Pontifex the pope had granted all that Columbus discovered exclusively to him and his country. Ferdinand and Isabel of Spain, however, thought the pope had given the same lands to them. In May 1493 the Spanish-born Alexander VI issued three bulls to settle the dispute.
In the name of Christ, who had no place on this earth that He called his own, this incredibly evil Borgia pope, claiming to own the world, drew a north-south line down the global map of that day, giving everything on the east to Portugal and on the west to Spain. Thus by papal grant, "out of the plenitude of apostolic power," Africa went to Portugal and the America’s to Spain. When Portugal "succeeded in reaching India and Malaya, they secured the confirmation of these discoveries from the Papacy." There was a condition, of course: "to the intent to bring the inhabitants to profess the Catholic Faith"
As a consequence of this unholy alliance, between church and state, Central and South America had Roman Catholicism forced upon them by the sword and remain Catholic to this day. North America (with the exception of Quebec and Louisiana) was spared the dominance of the Roman Catholicism because it was settled largely by Protestants. Nor have the descendants of Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas forgotten that Roman Catholic priests, backed by the secular sword, gave their ancestors the choice of conversion (which often meant slavery) or death. They made such an outcry when John Paul II in a recent visit to Latin America proposed elevating Junipero Serra (a major eighteenth-century enforcer of Catholicism among the Indians) to sainthood that the Pope was forced to hold the ceremony in secret.
Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world; otherwise my servants would fight." The Popes, however, have fought with armies and navies in the name of Christ to build a huge kingdom which has engulfed much of this world. And to amass their earthly empire they have repeatedly engaged in spiritual fornication with emperors, kings, and princes. Claiming to be the bride of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church has been in bed with godless rulers down through history, and these adulterous relationships continue to this day.
ROME EQUALS VATICAN
Some may object that it is Rome, and not that small part of it known as Vatican City, which is built on seven hills, and that the Vatican can hardly be called a "great city," Though both objections are true, the words "Vatican" and "Rome" are universally used interchangeably. Just as one would refer to Washington and mean the government that runs the United States, so one refers to Rome and means the hierarchy that rules the Roman Catholic Church. So closely are Catholicism and Rome linked that the Catholic Church is known as the Roman Catholic Church, or simply the Roman Church.
Moreover, for more than a thousand years the Roman Catholic Church exercised both religious and civil control over the entire city of Rome and its surroundings. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) abolished the secular Roman Senate and placed the administration of Rome directly under his command. The Roman Senate that had governed the city under the Caesars had been known as the Curia Romana (Roman Curia). That name, according to the Pocket Catholic Dictionary, is now the designation of "the whole ensemble of administrative and judicial offices through which the Pope directs the operations of the Catholic Church."
The popes' authority even extended to large territories outside Rome acquired in the eighth century. At that time, with the help of a deliberately fraudulent document manufactured for the popes known as “The Donation of Constantine”, Pope Stephen III convinced Pepin, king of the Franks and father of Charlemagne, that territories recently taken by the Lombards from the Byzantines actually had been given to the papacy by the Emperor Constantine. The Donation declared that Constantine had given these lands, along with Rome and the Lateran Palace, to the popes in perpetuity. Thus the Papal States were literally stolen by the popes from their rightful owners. The papacy controlled and taxed these territories and derived great wealth from them until 1848. At that time the pope, along with the rulers of most of the other divided territories of Italy, was forced to grant his rebellious subjects a constitution. In September 1860, over his raging protests, Pius IX lost all of the papal states to the new, finally united Kingdom of Italy, which left him, at the time of the First Vatican Council in 1870, still in control of Rome and its surroundings. The point, exactly as John foresaw in his vision, a spiritual entity that claimed a special relationship with Christ and with God became identified with a city that was built on seven hills. That "woman" committed spiritual fornication with earthly rulers and eventually reigned over them. The Roman Catholic Church has been continuously identified with that city. As "the most definitive Catholic encyclopedia since Vatican II" declares:
"...hence one understands the central place of Rome in the life of the Church today and the significance of the title, Roman Catholic Church, the Church that is universal, yet focused upon the ministry of the Bishop of Rome. Since the founding of the Church there by St. Peter, Rome has been the central of all Christendom" Catholic Encyclopedia, 1991, p. 842).
WEALTH FROM ILL-GOTTEN GAIN
The incredible wealth of this woman caught John's attention next. She was dressed "in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication" (Revelation 17:4). The colors of purple and scarlet once again identify the woman with both pagan and Christian Rome. These were the colors of the Roman Caesars with which the soldiers mockingly robed Christ as "King" (see Matthew 27:28 and John 19:2,5), which the Vatican took to itself. The woman's colors are literally still the colors of the Catholic clergy!
The "golden cup (chalice) in her hand" again identifies the woman with the Roman Catholic Church. Broderick's edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia declared of the chalice: "It is the most important of the sacred vessels. It may be of gold or silver, and if the latter, then the inside must be surfaced with gold" (Robert Broderick, ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia). The Roman Catholic Church possesses many thousands of solid gold chalices kept in its churches around the world. Even the bloodstained cross of Christ has been turned to gold and studded with gems in reflection of Rome's great wealth. The Catholic Encyclopedia says: "The pectoral cross [suspended by a chain around the neck and worn over the breast by abbots, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and the pope] should be made of gold and decorated with gems." (Ibid., p. 466).
Rome has practiced evil to gather her wealth, for the "golden cup" is filled with "abominations and filthiness." Most of Rome's wealth has been acquired through the sale of salvation. Untold billions of dollars have been paid to her by those who thought they were purchasing heaven on the installation plan for themselves or loved ones. The practice continues to this day, blatantly where Catholicism is in control, less obviously here in the United States. No greater deception or abomination could be perpetrated. When Cardinal Cajetan, sixteenth-century Dominican scholar, complained about the sale of dispensations and indulgences, the Church hierarchy was indignant and accused him of wanting "to turn Rome into an uninhabited desert, to reduce the Papacy to impotence, to deprive the pope of the pecuniary resources indispensable for the discharge of his office" (J.H. Ignaz von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council, London, 1869, pp. 307-08).
The Roman Catholic Church is by far the wealthiest institution on earth. Yes, one hears from Rome periodic pleas for money, persuasive appeals claiming that the Vatican cannot maintain itself on its limited budget and needs monetary assistance. Such pleas are unconscionable ploys. The value of innumerable sculptures by such masters as Michelangelo, paintings by the world's greatest artists, and countless other art treasures and ancient documents which Rome possesses (not only at the Vatican but in cathedrals around the world) is beyond calculation. There is no church, no City which is a spiritual entity, no religious institution past or present which even comes close to possessing the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church.
THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS
The more deeply one probes into the history of the Roman Catholic Church and its current practices, the more impressed one becomes with the amazing accuracy of the vision John received centuries before it would all be lamentable reality. John's attention is drawn to the inscription boldly emblazoned upon the woman's forehead: 'MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (Revelation 17:5) Sadly enough, the Roman Catholic Church fits the description "mother of harlots and abominations" as precisely as she fits the other. Much of the cause can be traced to the unbiblical demand that her priests be celibates.
The great apostle Paul was a celibate and recommended that life to others who wanted to devote themselves fully to serving Christ. He did not, however, make it a condition for church leadership as the Catholic Church has done, thereby imposing an unnatural burden upon all clergy that very few could bear. On the contrary, he wrote that bishop should by "the husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2) and set the same requirement for elders (Titus 1:5,6).
Peter, whom the Catholics erroneously claim was the first pope, was married. So were at least some of the other apostles. This fact was not the chance result of their having been married before Christ called them, but it was accepted as an ongoing norm. Paul himself argued that he had the right to marry like the rest: "Have we not power [Greek exousia, the right or privilege or authority] to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles and as the brethren [half-brothers, sons of Mary and Joseph] of the Lord, and as Cephas [Peter]?" (1 Corinthians 9:5).
The Roman Catholic Church, however, has insisted upon celibacy even though many popes, among them Sergius III (904-11), John X (914-28), John XII (955-63), Benedict V (964), Innocent VIII (1484-92), Urban VIII (1623-44), and Innocent X (1644-55), as well as millions of cardinals, bishops, archbishops, monks, and priests throughout history, have repeatedly violated such vows. Not only has celibacy made sinners of the clergy who engage in fornication, but makes harlots out of those with whom they secretly cohabit. Rome is indeed "the mother of harlots"! Her identification as such is unmistakable. No other city, church, or institution in the history of the world is her rival in this particular evil.
History is replete with sayings that mocked the church's false claim to celibacy and revealed the truth: "The holiest hermit has his whore" and "Rome has more prostitutes than any other city because she has the most celibates" are examples. Pius II declared that Rome was "the only city run by bastards" [sons of popes and cardinals].
As for abominations, even Catholic historians admit that among the popes were some of the most degenerate and unconscionable ogres in all of history. Their numerous outrageous crimes, many of which almost beyond belief, have been recited by many historians from preserved documents that reveal the depths of papal depravity, some of which we will cover in later chapters. To call any of these men "His Holiness, Vicar of Christ" makes a mockery of holiness and of Christ. Yet the name of each one of these unbelievably wicked popes--mass murderers, fornicators, robbers, warmongers, some guilty of the massacre of thousands--is emblazoned in honor of the Church's official list of popes.
DRUNK WITH THE MARTYR' BLOOD
John next notices that the woman is drunk--and not with an alcoholic beverage. She is drunk with "the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus..." (Revelation 17:6). The picture is a horrible one. It is not merely her hands that are red with this blood, but she is drunk with it! The slaughter of innocents who, for conscience' sake, would not yield to her totalitarian demands has so refused and exhilarated her that she reels in ecstasy. One thinks immediately of the Inquisitions (Roman, Medieval, and Spanish) which for centuries held Europe in their terrible grip. In his History of the Inquisition, Canon Llorente, who was the Secretary to the Inquisition in Madrid from 1790-1792 and had access to the archives of all the tribunals, estimated that in Spain alone the number of condemned exceeded 3 million, with about 300,000 burned at the stake.
During the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic Church devised ingenious tortures so excruciating and barbarous that one is sickened by their recital. Church historian Bishop William Shaw Kerr writes:
"The most ghastly abomination of all was the system of torture. The accounts of its cold-blooded operations make one shudder at the capacity of human beings for cruelty. And it was decreed and regulated by the popes who claim to represent Christ on earth.
The remnants of some of the chambers of horror remain in Europe and may be visited today. They stand as memorials to the zealous outworking of Roman Catholic dogmas which remain in force today, and to a Church which claims to be infallible and to this day justifies such barbarism. They are also memorials to the astonishing accuracy of John's vision in Revelation 17.
The Roman Catholic Church "was responsible for persecuting Jews, for the Inquisition, for slaughtering heretics by the thousand, and for reintroducing torture in to Europe as part of the judicial process." Yet the Roman Catholic Church has never officially admitted that these practices were evil, nor has she apologized to the world or to any of the victims or their descendants. Nor could Pope John Paul II apologize today because "the doctrines responsible for those terrible things still underpin his position."
MORE BLOOD THAN THE PAGANS
Pagan Rome made sport of throwing to the lions, burning and otherwise killing thousands of Christians and not a few Jews. Yet "Christian" Rome slaughtered many times that number of both Christians and Jews. Beside those victims of the Inquisition, there were Huguenots, Albigenses, Waldenses, and other Christians who were massacred, tortured, and burned at the stake by the hundreds of thousands simply because they refused to align themselves with the Roman Catholic Church and its corruption and heretical dogmas and practices. Out of conscience they tried to follow the teachings of Christ and the apostles independent of Rome, and for that crime they were maligned, hunted, imprisoned, tortured, and slain.
Why would Rome ever apologize for or even admit this holocaust? No one calls her to account today. Protestants have now forgotten the hundreds of thousands of people burned at the stake for embracing the simple gospel of Christ and refusing to bow to papal authority. Amazingly, Protestants are now embracing Rome as Christian while she insists that the "separated brethren" be reconciled to her on her unchangeable terms! Many evangelical leaders are intent upon working with Roman Catholics to evangelize the world. They don't want to hear any "negative" reminders of the millions of people tortured and slain by the Church to which they now pay homage, or the fact that Rome has a false gospel of sacramental works.
"Holy" Rome slaughtered Jews by the thousands--far more than pagan Rome ever did. The land of Israel was seen as belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, not to the Jews. In 1096 Pope Urban I inspired the first crusade to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims. With the cross on their shields and armor, the Crusaders massacred Jews across Europe on their way to the Holy Land. Almost their first act upon taking Jerusalem "for Holy Mother Church" was to herd all of the Jews into the synagogue and set it ablaze. These facts of history cannot be swept under the carpet of ecumenical togetherness as though they never happened.
Nor can the Vatican escape considerable responsibility for the Nazi Holocaust, which was thoroughly known to Pius XII in spite of his complete silence throughout the war on the most important of subjects. Had the pope protested, as representatives of Jewish organizations and the Allied Powers begged him to do, he would have condemned his own church. The Facts are inescapable:
"In 1936, Bishop Berning of Osnabruch had talked with the Fuehrer for over an hour. Hitler assured his lordship there was no fundamental difference between National Socialism and the Catholic Church. Had not the church, he argued, looked on Jews as parasites and shut them in ghettos?
"`I am only doing,' he boasted, `What the church has done for fifteen hundred years, only more effectively.' Being a Catholic himself, he told Berning, he `admired and wanted to promote Christianity.'"
There is, of course, another reason why the Roman Catholic Church has neither apologized for nor repented of these crimes. How could she? The execution of heretics (including Jews) was decreed by "infallible" popes. The Catholic Church herself claims to be infallible, and thus her doctrines could not be wrong.
REIGNING OVER THE KINGS OF THE EARTH
Finally, the angel reveals to John that the woman "is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth" (Revelation 17:18). Is there such a city? Yes, and again only one: Vatican City. Popes crowned and deposed kings and emperors, exacting obedience by threatening them with excommunication. At the time of the First Vatican Council in 1869 J.H. Ignaz von Dollinger, Professor of Church History in Munich, warned that Pope Pius IX would force the Council make an infallible dogma out of "that pet theory of the Popes, that they could force kings and magistrates, by excommunication and its consequences, to carry out their sentences of confiscation, imprisonment, and death.
Though John Paul II lacks the power to enforce such brutal claims today, his Church still retains the dogmas which authorize him to do so. And the practical effects of his power are no less than those of his predecessors, though exercised quietly behind the scenes. The Vatican is the only city which exchanges ambassadors with nations, and she does so with every major country on earth. Ambassadors come to the Vatican from every major country, including the United States, not out of mere courtesy but because of the pope is the most powerful ruler on earth today.
Yes, ambassadors of nations come to Washington D.C., to Paris, or to London, but only because the national government has its capital there. Nor does Washington, Paris, London, or any other city send ambassadors to other countries. Only Vatican City does so. Unlike any other city on earth, the Vatican is acknowledged as a sovereign state in its own right, separate and distinct from the nation of Italy surrounding it. There is no other city in history of which this has been true, and such is still the case today.
Only of the Vatican could it be said that a city reigns over the kings of the earth. The phrase "the worldwide influence of Washington" means the influence not of that city but of the United States, which has its capital there. When one speaks, however, of the influence of the Vatican around the world, that is exactly what is meant--the city and the worldwide power of Roman Catholicism and its leader the Pope. Vatican City is absolutely unique.
FORGET A REBUILT BABYLON
Some suggest that the Vatican will move to Babylon in Iraq when it is rebuilt. But why should it? The Vatican has been fulfilling John's vision from its location in Rome for the past 15 centuries. Moreover, we have shown the connection to ancient Babylon which the Vatican has maintained down through history in the paganized Christianity it has promulgated. As for ancient Babylon itself, it wasn't even in existence during the past 2300 years to "reign over the kings of the earth." Babylon lay in ruins while pagan Rome and later Catholic Rome, the new Babylon, was indeed reigning over kings.
One eighteenth-century historian counted 95 popes who claimed to have divine power to depose kings and emperors. Historian Walter James wrote that Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) "held all Europe in his net." Gregory IX (1227-41) thundered that the pope was lord and master of everyone and everything. Historian R.W. Southern declared: "During the whole medieval period there was in Rome a single spiritual and temporal authority [the papacy] exercising powers which in the end exceeded those that had ever lain within the grasp of a Roman emperor." That the popes reigned over kings is an undisputed fact of history. That in so doing horrible abominations were committed, as John foresaw, is also indisputable. Pope Nicholas I (858-67) declared: "We [popes] alone have the power to bind and to loose, to absolve Nero and to condemn him; and Christians cannot, under penalty of excommunication, execute other judgment than ours, which alone is infallible
This qualifying information which John gives us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for identifying this woman, who is a city, is specific, conclusive, and irrefutable. There is no city upon earth, past or present, which meets all of these criteria except Catholic Rome and now Vatican City, the City on Seven Hills.