When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, speculation arose among some prophecy writers that Iraq was the modern revival of Babylon written about in Revelation. Charles Dyer claimed that events depicted in Isaiah 13 were being fulfilled with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait: “‘The day of the Lord’ described by Isaiah [in 13:6] refers to the tribulation period that is still to come. Babylon’s destruction will come in the time of the tribulation—a short period of time just before the second coming of Christ.”[1] Is this possible? Isaiah 13:6 states that “the day of the Lord is near!,” near for those who first read the prophecy more than twenty-five hundred years ago! Isaiah predicted that Babylon would be overthrown by the Medes (13:17). Since the Medes did overthrow Babylon, the use of “near” makes perfect literal sense.

Dyer, like so many prophetic speculators, believe Babylon will be rebuilt so it can be destroyed during the “Great Tribulation” to fulfill Bible prophecy. Mimicking the past does not fulfill prophecy. There were no thriving cities that could be described as “Babylonian.” In 1988, Tony Horwitz wrote that on the day he visited the site “there were no other tourists, only a handful of Bedouin hustlers lurking in slivers of shade cast by free-standing pillars. One of them grasped my sleeve and unfolded his fist to reveal a tiny cuneiform tablet and a statuette of a Babylonian king. ‘Very ancient, very real,’ he said. And very cheap at only $10.”[2]

Are we to conclude that from the sale of artifacts to a sparse tourist trade that the splendor and grandeur of ancient Babylon is becoming a reality to rival Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon? Where are the famed Hanging Gardens? Parts of the city of Jerusalem have been rebuilt in Orlando, Florida. Does this constitute a prophetic rebuilding of the once Holy City?

Now we learn that the supposed revival of ancient Babylon is being used as a military base: “[A]fter entering Babylon in April 2003, coalition forces turned the site into a base camp, flattening and compressing tracts of ruins as they built a helicopter pad and fuel stations. The soldiers filled sandbags with archeological fragments and dug trenches through unexcavated areas, while tanks crushed slabs of original 2,600-year-old paving.”[3] Archeologists do want to rebuild Babylon so they can “turn it into a cultural center and possibly even an Iraqi theme park.”[4]

Tim LaHaye claims that the literal approach to Bible prophecy demands “that the city of Babylon must be restored before the Second Coming.”[5] He begins by appealing to “the law of double reference,”[6] that Babylon must be overthrown twice. There is no such law in the Bible. The Bible states clearly that Babylon “will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation” (Isa. 13:20); it will be swept “with the broom of destruction” (Isa. 14:23); it “will be desolate forever” (Jer. 51:26); it will be “a desolation without inhabitants” (Jer. 51:29); God will “exact full vengeance” (Jer. 51:36); “it will be a perpetual desolation” (Jer. 51:62); and it shall “sink down and not rise again” (Jer. 51:64).

Even after these repeated statements that Babylon will never be inhabited or rise again, LaHaye insists that “the law of double reference” requires that Babylon will be rebuilt and inhabited because there must be “two overthrows of Babylon”—the first occurring hundreds of years before the birth of Christ and the second during the seven-year Tribulation period.

In LaHaye’s own Prophecy Study Bible, Arno Froese takes a different position that is in keeping with what the Bible actually says on the subject. His article titled “The Figurative Babylon” appears in the context of Isaiah 13:

Will ancient Babylon be rebuilt and become the center of the world’s economy, finances and religion? The Bible mentions, “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the Earth” (Rev. 17:5). This verse does not refer to “Babylon” literally, but rather figuratively. This Babylon is a different entity than the one mentioned in Jeremiah 27:6.[7]

While a literal Babylon no longer exists, the spirit of Babylon, characterized by rebellion and confusion, continues. Babylon is a symbol of rebellion against God, whose position in that regard passed to Media-Persia, then to Greece, and finally to Rome.[8]

Froese’s analysis of Revelation’s “mystery Babylon” contradicts LaHaye’s strongly held position that Babylon must be rebuilt. Their positions could not be any more different. So who is right? LaHaye insists that we can “be sure that any city mentioned seven times in two chapters, as is Babylon in Revelation 17 and 18, will be a literal city.”[9] But his Prophecy Study Bible understands Babylon in Revelation to be symbolic. The symbolic interpretation seems to be the better approach. It fits well with the way Egypt, Sodom, and Jezebel are used in Revelation—as symbols.


[1] Charles H. Dyer, The Rise of Babylon: Sign of the End Times (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1991), 19. [2] Tony Horwitz, “Paranoia Runs Deep in Iraqi Sands,” Washington Post (20 November 1988), E1. Quoted in Dyer, The Rise of Babylon, 129. [3] Rupert Cornwell, “US. Colonel offers Iraq an apology of sorts for devastation of Babylon,” Belfast Telegraph (April 17, 2006)
[4] Jeffrey Gettleman, “Ruined Treasures in Babylon Await an Iraq Without Fighting ,” The New York Times (April 18, 2006)
[5] Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?: Current Events Foretold in Scripture . . . And What They Mean (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999), 134. [6] LaHaye and Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?, 135. [7] “Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him” (Jer. 27:6).
[8] Arno Froese, “The Figurative Babylon,” in Prophecy Study Bible, gen. ed. Tim LaHaye (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), 703, emphasis added.
[9] LaHaye and Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?, 143.