Is America in Biblical prophecy?
When discussing the book of Revelation, the prevailing thought seems to be the United States is not mentioned. This makes many wonder about our fate. During the End Times, will we have been taken over by another country, will we be completely destroyed before the battle of Armageddon, or be blissfully excluded from End Times prophecy all together? No other country or place, except Babylon, is mentioned in Revelation by name. Therefore, perhaps not mentioning the U.S. does not necessarily imply we are in or out of the End Times prophecy. Maybe what we should wonder about is why Babylon is specifically mentioned, and how that could affect America? Is the U.S. truly excluded from End Times prophecy?
Babylon is described several ways in Revelation chapter 18 with a few bits & pieces in chapters 17 and 19. These descriptions can be summed up as she was the Great city that sits on many waters. Her Sexual immorality and sins have piled up as high as the heavens. She has glorified herself and lived luxuriously while merchants have gotten wealthy from her.
The ancient city of Babylon was located about 60 miles south of Baghdad in modern-day Iraq. Its empire bordered the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. However, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea were just to the north, making her surrounded by a total of five great seas. It served nearly two thousand years as the center of Mesopotamian civilization. The city boasts the construction of the Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, albeit contested by some historians. The Hammurabi Code, an early recording of laws, came from Babylon. These laws were harsh compared to today’s standards, but a substantial step forward to codified laws for peaceful living.
The Babylonian empire was a period of cultural renaissance in the Near East. They built many beautiful and lavish buildings and preserved statues and artworks from the earlier Babylonian Empire. Since Babylon is mentioned specifically by name and could arguably fit the descriptions in Revelation 17-19, it is usually assumed that that Revelation is speaking about ancient Babylon. However, there are some issues with that assumption.
Ancient Babylon can’t be mentioned in Revelation
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that was recorded in the book of Daniel. In short, the dream was of a great statute with a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of clay mixed with iron. The prophet Daniel, interprets the dream saying it foretells the destruction of Babylon and subsequent takeover and rule by the Greeks, and then the Romans.
Babylon’s part of the dream came to pass with its destruction by the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C. Ancient Babylon fits the preceding descriptions in Revelation in that it was a great city, was able to trade with other countries, and was nestled within five great seas. Their immorality and sins in recorded history seem a bit scant. Seemingly not enough to rise up to the heavens, or worthy of the fate that takes up an entire chapter of Revelation, but I’m sure they tried. As well, Nebuchadnezzar certainly could be accused of self-glorification as he commanded his people to worship statues of himself.
But after this sin was pointed out by Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego recorded in the famous stories of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, and Babylon’s fiery furnace, the King did give God praise and acknowledgment after witnessing God’s power in both cases. So, while Babylon seems to fit the descriptions in Revelation, it could be argued that it doesn’t quite measure up completely. Besides, history records that its destruction has already happened. It’s a done deal, not a pending prophecy.
The real deal-breaker for ancient Babylon not being the Babylon mentioned in Revelation is scripture itself. Speaking about the Babylonian empire, Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream goes on to say the wind carried all the empires away so that not a trace of them was found.
Could Babylon possibly be rebuilt from the ashes? Once more, scripture puts the kibosh on that. The prophet Isaiah says Babylon will not be rebuilt. It’s interesting to note that Saddam Husain tried to rebuild or preserve Babylon but to no avail. He constructed a palace there that is now empty and graffiti-clad. Saddam was hanged in 2006. Too bad that he didn’t refer to the book of Isaiah before he started his grand building plans.
Ancient Babylon is gone, carried away like chaff. Not a trace to be found. Never to be seen again. If not ancient Babylon or a rebuilt Babylon being spoken of in Revelation, then what? Where do we go from here?
Is Revelation literal or figurative?
We must decide if Revelation is figurative or literal in its writing. The book of Revelation is full of vivid imagery and action scenes worthy of a blockbuster movie. If it’s literal, we are going to see a lot of strange happenings and wild beasts in the future, not unlike a Godzilla movie. If we go the figurative route, then the city or empire of Babylon is figurative as well. If figurative, then Babylon in Revelation is referring to some other Great City, cities, or people group. And if not ancient Babylon, then who? What country, place, or peoples on earth fit the descriptions in Revelation 18?
The United States fits Revelation’s description of Babylon
The United States is listed as the 7th and 8th wealthiest country (GDP) by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank respectively. It has been a truly free nation, founded on laws with a strong military to defend those laws and freedoms. The world looks to the U.S. for leadership and protection. What we do in the U.S. is news around the world.
Look at the close correlation between the United States and the descriptions of Babylon stated in Revelation.
Sexual immorality – Americans’ acceptance of sexual immorality is growing, according to a Gallup report. Gay or lesbian relations, having children outside marriage, sex outside of marriage and, extramarital affairs, are all on the uptick. When asked about the moral acceptability of a range of issues, five of the top six issues that saw an increase in acceptability were related to sexual morality.
Sins have piled up as high as the heavens – While there have been some variations over the years, traditionally Christians speak about the seven deadly sins being pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. The New Testament alone mentions 124 discrete sins and there are 42 abominations to God listed in the Bible. Without trying to quantify the sins and abominations committed over the 245 odd years of America’s lifespan, it’s a safe bet to say those sins of America could indeed pile as high as the heavens. A several days look at the national news will confirm this.
Glorified herself – Self-glorification is extolling your accomplishments. When spoken about in the Bible, self-glorification additionally denies God as having anything to do with those accomplishments. We started as a nation acknowledging God and thanking Him on a national scale. Think Thanksgiving, In God We Trust printed on our currency, National days of prayer, and Biblical references etched into stone on our federal and state buildings. Over the years, we have replaced thanking God with boasting about how great a nation we are and the things we have been able to accomplish on our own. All the while we have kicked God and prayer out of our schools, places of work, and government. Acknowledgment of God has diminished to the point where a state representative has declared “what any religious tradition describes as God’s will is no concern of this Congress.”
Lived luxuriously – Our standard of living is among the top in the world. While we do a good job giving to needy countries and causes, we also keep a tight grip on our luxuries. In America, anything you would want is available somewhere. It’s become our god to have things. Shopping, amusement, and self-indulgence seem to be a national pastime.
Great city – To many immigrants, the United States is the great city of hope. People have left everything behind and risked their lives to come to America. We were the great melting pot of immigrants after the first and second world wars. People flood our borders still today. The number of legal immigrants living in the U.S. has more than quadrupled reaching a record 44.8 million in 2018. They account for 13.7% of the population, nearly triple the share in 1970. The unauthorized immigrant population has more than tripled in size to a record high of 12.2 million in 2007.
Merchants have gotten rich from her – The United States is the 2nd largest goods exporter in the world. We are trading partners with more than 200 countries, territories, and regional associations around the globe. Being a trading partner with the U.S. brings them wealth because of the American drive to purchase and having the means to do so.
Sits on the mighty waters – America is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Great Lakes to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. That’s a lot of coastlines for a lot of shipping trade.
In addition to meeting the descriptions in Revelation, America has been a major contributor to the worlds of science, technology, medicine, astronomy, space exploration, and computer technology, to name a few. So is America the Babylon of this age?
The U.S. must be mentioned somewhere in the Bible
It’s been said the best place to hide something is in plain sight. Could the figurative meaning of Babylon be staring us in the face? Can we possibly be missing the forest for the trees in saying the U.S. is not mentioned in Revelation? Does claiming the name Babylon as literal, force a one-time literal description in Revelation? The United States is one of the few nations founded on Christian principles, blessed by God, and a supporter of Israel. It’s hardly a country that God could overlook and therefore it seems odd the U.S. is not mentioned anywhere in Biblical prophecy. Surely it’s mentioned somewhere, maybe just not by name.
God had a lot to say to the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three. They all started great, but five of them faltered. The same could be said for the U.S.? We were founded on scriptural principles, but over time we strayed from God and our sins became many. We faltered. Can we undo what we have done? If America is indeed Revelation’s Babylon, then what may be our fate?
The fate of Babylon
Whether you believe Revelation speaks to ancient Babylon, a resurrected Babylon, or the United States, its fate is not pretty. Loosely summarized Revelation says fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. God has remembered her offenses and will pay her back. He will give back to her double according to her deeds. To the same extent, He will give her torment and mourning. In one day, her plagues will come, plague and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire. The kings of the earth will weep and mourn over her when they see the smoke of her burning. Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour, your judgment has come. One hour such great wealth has been laid waste! The merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her. All things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you, and people will no longer find them. Woe, woe, the great city, in one hour she has been laid waste! God has pronounced judgment for you against her. As a great millstone thrown into the sea, so will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence and will never be found again. And the sound of harpists, musicians, flute players, and trumpeters will never be heard in you again.
No craftsman of any craft will ever be found in you again. The sound of a mill will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again and the voice of the groom and bride will never be heard in you again because all the nations were deceived by your witchcraft. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slaughtered on the earth. He has judged the great prostitute who was corrupting the earth with her sexual immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her. Her smoke rises forever and ever. If Revelation’s Babylon is the United States, what are Christians living in the U.S. to do?
What do we do?
If America is indeed the Babylon of this age, then she will receive the fate described in Revelation 18. No one should count on being spared just because they are believers in Christ. Consider Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. They were extremely faithful to God, yet they were carried away with the rest of the captives to Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem.
Rev 18:4 says “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive any of her plagues.” A literal interpretation of the warning would be that we need to get out of Dodge, so to speak. This is Revelation speaking so maybe a figurative interpretation is more in order. Maybe we are to remain in the U.S. but carefully refuse to be a part of her sins. This is nothing new as believers are instructed and warned multiple times in scripture to be in the world but not of the world.
If Revelation is written in chronological order, the destruction of whatever Babylon is will occur just before the bowl judgments. This would give any well-informed believer time to make their escape. But to where? Consider all the countries that will be participating in Armageddon. It’s commonly thought the four Kings converging on Israel are: Russia from the North, Egypt and the Arab Islamic forces from the South, China from the East, and the United Kingdom from the West. Some believe the U.S. joins forces with the UK. That doesn’t leave many places to choose from if you are looking to run and hide.
Fortunately, most protestant theologies state the rapture will have happened before the bowl judgments, so it’s not a move a believer may need to entertain. In the meantime, it’s a good warning to be true to Christ and not be counted with Babylon. Think about Lot’s wife. Lot’s family was allowed to escape Sodom just before God destroyed the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. But she loved Sodom and looked back as her family ran from its destruction. For that glance, she was turned into a pillar of salt. Being enamored with Sodom, being of that world, cost her life. We need to be on guard against being enamored with things of this world.
Nothing suggested here changes the gospel of Christ. Hopefully, it’s only an interesting dinner conversation. Besides living in the world, but not being of the world there is an additional important takeaway. Be open to what the Bible has to say without always filtering it through our preconceptions. Reading with an open mind may also open our eyes to what may be hiding in plain sight. We should have no fear in an unfiltered, unbiased reading of scripture. We may just see many things we never saw before. With the Holy Spirit in us, scripture will not mislead us,but rather lead us.