A Vision ACTUALLY Seen . . .
Though Revelation is undoubtedly a highly symbolic book, the purpose of this commentary is to show that the Book of Revelation is much more literal than previously supposed. Not only were the events predicted in the Apocalypse often fulfilled in a surprisingly literal way, even the preponderance of fantastic images in these visions were readily seen by John’s audience. For example, the seven-headed beast of Revelation 13 and the scale in the hand of the angel in Revelation 6:5 were not just seen in John’s mind. These and many other images in Revelation were seen by John and the churches he wrote to, in fact, they are still visible today!
Though Most of the Symbolism in Revelation is drawn from the Bible, God often employs the Symbolism of Ancient Babylon to Address the Fate of Spiritual Babylon in a Symbolic Language that was as Familiar to First Century Israel and Rome as Christian Iconography is to People Today.
Jerusalem and Rome are called Babylon throughout the Apocalypse. The fact that both cities are given this epithet is a consequence of the adulterous affair between Jerusalem and Rome depicted in Revelation 17. As a direct result of this affair, Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, is called Babylon, Rome’s first-century epithet, in fulfillment of 1 Corinthians 6:16: “[T]he one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her[.] For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” See the preterist commentaries on Revelation 17 and Revelation 18.
The fact that Jerusalem is called Babylon explains much of the symbolism in Revelation which has no significant Biblical precedence. Ancient Babylon which destroyed Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C. predicted the future using a well-developed system of celestial symbols. This method of foretelling the future spread quickly throughout the Roman Empire and was well-recognized in Jerusalem and Rome by the first century. Thus essentially all of the Roman Empire including first-century Jerusalem were as familiar with Babylonian imagery as western society is with Christian imagery today. Jerusalem is spiritual Babylon. In keeping with the fact that Jerusalem is called Babylon in Revelation, God communicates His judgments on spiritual Babylon in the language and imagery of ancient Babylon, imagery that first-century Jerusalem knew very well.
The ancient Babylonian system of predicting the future using celestial symbols is called astrology. As stated above, both Jerusalem and Rome are called Babylon throughout Revelation. The fact that Rome is Babylon is illustrated by the fact that each Roman legion was represented by a different Babylonian constellation. Thus each Roman legion was symbolized by a sign of the zodiac. Interestingly, in Revelation 9 the Roman army is described in a mingled conglomeration of the defining attributes of those signs of the zodiac that were visible in the night sky during Passover, the holiday in which Jesus was crucified and the Romans began their siege of Jerusalem. In describing the Roman army in this way, John offers his readers hints to the identity of the locust army of Revelation 9 in addition to the time in which the five-month siege mentioned in Revelation 9:5 was to begin.
The Apocalypse etched in the Heavens . . .
“God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs . . .(Genesis 1:14)’” Likewise while predicting the coming judgment, Jesus said the following in Luke 21:25: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.” In light of Genesis 1:14 and Luke 21:25 it may not be all that shocking that a large part of the imagery in the Apocalypse is pictured in the stars. Though John often mentions various Babylonian constellations while foretelling the impending fall of spiritual Babylon, John does not violate Deuteronomy 4:19. John sees the heavenly bodies as they are depicted in Genesis 1:14 as simply signs and symbols, not as gods.
Throughout this commentary I shall highlight the major constellations referred to in Revelation thus it will, no doubt, be helpful to follow along with a planisphere or star wheel especially in Revelation 9. A planisphere or star wheel is a simple dial that displays the constellations visible at any day and time of night. A planisphere will allow the reader to see the days in which constellations are visible, their proximity to other constellations, and the way in which these star clusters move across the sky. With the help of this tool, the reader will gain a strong appreciation for the way in which these constellations illustrate the timeline and much of the imagery in John’s vision.
A good example of a planisphere or star wheel can be found in the following website:
Click on 2013 Kepler Star Wheel, print and follow the directions.
 Preterist scholar David Chilton notes that the four faces of the cherubim in Revelation 4:7 are the “middle signs of the four quarters of the Zodiac.” (David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Dallas, GA: Dominion Press, 2011), 158.)