Revelation 17 is a pivotal chapter in understanding the dating of the Book of Revelation. Scholars have often suggested it is Rome. The definitive clue in identifying Mystery Babylon is that it is the great city where also our Lord was crucified. Also, God takes vengeance on those who murdered the prophets and the saints. When did Rome or modern day Iraq martyr the prophets of God? Nero was the first emperor ever to persecute the saints which started about 64 A.D. to 68A.D..
Following Nero, neither of the following emperors, Galba, Otho and Vitellius, including Vespasian and Titus ever persecuted the church. Others claim Domitian demanded to be worshiped as a God and that is the only point that fits in the book of Revelation. Domitian’s own historians never demanded worship form anyone; he never commanded anyone to address him as God. According to Domitian’s chroniclers, he never required anyone deify him.
Thus, there was no systematic persecution of the church, much less a systematic persecution.
The Persecution Under Nero
Contrast the persecution under Nero with that which began in Acts 7 and 8 under Stephen. The Jews persecuted Christians for 40 years. Nero, the only serious systematic non-Jewish persecution of the church cannot compared. The Jews had been persecuting their own prophets in the past and had killed having persecuted the church for 40 years. Which of those would be more likely to fill up the cup of her sins?
When considered from that perspective, there is no comparison with Rome, Iraq, America, New York or any city than Jerusalem.
F. W. Farrar, 19th century scholar made a comment that the early date was almost universally unquestioned. N.T. Wright has also commented on the identity of Babylon as Jerusalem. He wanted to know what so many people have invested in the identity of Rome as Mystery Babylon?
Identity of the Woman and the 7 Hills
Rome and the beast are the seven hills. The woman sits on the seven hills which are not to be identified with the woman. Clearly, they are different. The woman does not sit upon herself! In chapter 17 the beast turns on the woman, hates her and destroys her with fire. Before, they had been in a partnership of persecution against the saints. In Revelation 17, the partnership goes sour; the beast turns against the woman and burns her with fire.
Now let’s take a look at Domitian. Was he ever in a partnership with anyone to persecute the church? There is absolutely no historical evidence that he was ever in a partnership to persecute the church. It cannot be argued that Domitian was a partner of Rome, he was Rome! He was the Emperor and commander of Rome.
Thirdly, since Domitian was never in a partnership with Rome, it really makes it tough for him to hate then turn on her and burn her. Domitian never burnt Rome. He never destroyed Rome.
This is problematic. If he is identified as the beast, then it must be proven that he turned against Rome, hated her and destroyed Rome! He never destroyed Rome by fire. It is not historically there.
How then do we make Domitian the beast and identify Babylon as Rome? It is impossible.
The Religious Argument & Nero
Domitian never hated or destroyed the religious element of Rome. Nero’s wife was a Jew. Many of his circle and counsel of advisers were Jews.
According to Seneca, there was an ambassage from Jerusalem to Rome seeking to kill Paul. Nero had been supporting Jerusalem in their persecution against the church. However, Rome turned on Jerusalem and burned her.
Check out Steven Temple’s book on The Mother of Harlots in which he demonstrates conclusively that a Harlot was a married woman who sold her services for hire. The question is was Rome, Babylon or America ever in a covenant relationship with YHWH? Never!
The 10 Northern tribes were his wife, but he divorced them because of their idolatry but did not divorce Judah because of the promise made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through Judah. (See Gen. 49:10).
Ezekiel 16 uses the language of a priest’s wife who had become unfaithful. In Leviticus, a priests wife who became unfaithful was to be stoned and burnt with fire. Just as Jerusalem was the wife of a priest who became unfaithful and was stoned (hailstones that fell on her) and she was burned with fire.