Wednesday, October 1, 2014

REVELATION 18: 1-24 “THE FALL OF BABYLON “ #2

Last time  we saw in John’s context  that Rome was the great prostitute seated on 7 hills (17:9)  which rides on the beast, the Roman empire, which  brought prosperity  to the nations  through the Pax Romana ,  but to the Christian church Rome  brought  much suffering. A Roman instituted king called Herod  wanted Jesus killed . A  Roman  governor called Pontius Pilate  handed  Jesus  over to Roman soldiers to be crucified.  The apostle Paul  was killed by the Romans. So were many of the  apostles  and Christian people.  Rome,   for John was a prototype of Babylon,  the scourge of  ancient Israel, which became     the  symbolic city of  sinful man which stood against  God and  His people .
In addition  to this  she was a temptress. Her  many  seductive attractions  and features  were used by  Satan, and the antichrist and the false prophet  to  seduce  the kings of the earth, (17:2,5,15).  But in the end, we have seen   that  when she has served her purposes, she will be hated and discarded.  (17:16)This is what happens to a prostitute . She is loved by everyone, and then she is loved by no one . At the end of her usefulness she is thrown away.  
This is   now described in greater detail in  the 18th  Chapter, following   17:16 .  

The destruction of Babylon   is a part of the “7th  bowl judgment” (16:17-21), which  represents  the final cycle of judgments in the  Revelation of  the Lord Jesus to John.  With this judgment  the  wrath of  God  is complete.  With it, the  end of the world, as we know it, has come.

What about God’s people at this time?   Just as  God spared His people in the midst of His terrible wrath poured out upon Egypt  by  the 10  plagues (Exodus  7-12), so also   God will  spare His people  from  His  wrath  upon the earth  at the end of times.  His people  are marked and  sealed in  the name of Christ[1]. However,  all  those who worship the beast and  who bear his mark [2] will bear the full fury of God’s wrath.

I want to repeat something important. The logic of the book of Revelation  teaches  us that  the church in every age   between Christ’s ascension and descension  (or the second coming) goes through  tribulation.  This was the purpose  of  Revelation 2&3 – to show us the  various sufferings of the church in all ages . The faithful church is  kept by the power of God  in all   her tribulations .    During the final battle  at  a place called  “ Armageddon[3]   (16:16), just before Christ’s  second  coming ,  the nations  shall gather  with the intent to  destroy the people of the Lamb of  God (17:14), and as they do this , the angel  pours the 7th bowl of God’s wrath  upon the world.  Babylon,  the  city of man  and the cities of the nations (16:19)  will be judged (Ch’s 17 &18) at this time.
During this time  the  people of God will exist and live  in their midst (as we do today!) , but    those who hear the  warning words will come out of her  (18:4)- just as Abraham avoided the sinful  cities of the plains , Sodom and Gomorrah where his nephew Lot had lived.  God’s people  will  continue to be on earth during the time of this severe tribulation , and God keeps them in that  situation as he also kept His people in the time of the 10 plagues upon Egypt. 
I mention  this  because there  is an eschatological  view [4] that  maintains that   the people of God  (the church) will be taken out of the world  (raptured)   by the Lord Jesus before  the final , great tribulation after which, they say ,  there will be a period of seven years of  great tribulation for the world.  After 7 years of terrible suffering , it is said  that the Jesus will return  to establish  His millennial  kingdom[5] (a golden era on earth), after which Satan will be  freed for a short time  to  do more of his destructive work,  after which  Jesus  finally defeats him and  sends him into eternal hell.  
However  this is not  the  flow and logic of the Revelation to John.  The Revelation certainly teaches  that  the church goes through tribulation at all times, BUT at all times  we are assured that  the Lord keeps His people.  Even those who lose  their lives for the sake of the gospel , are not forgotten . They are  kept safe  in heaven, awaiting the judgment of the wicked  and resurrection of the body  at Christ’s  return.  Judgment day occurs when Christ comes back.
What about the 1000 years – the  millennial age of  peace and prosperity  upon the earth?   The millennium  certainly is not a time of peace and prosperity  for those on the earth, but we can certainly say  that  peace and  tranquility is certainly experienced  by those who are now in heaven , who have entered in His  promised rest ( Hebr.11:13-16;39-40 )  

Why do we make   this such a big issue ? Pastorally speaking this is an important point !  Jesus through  John  offers hope and perspective  to  the persecuted  church  in the time of His absence.  He shows  us that  God is not indifferent  to the  sufferings of his people. He is pouring out temporary judgments upon the earth, and He is directing  everything  to a final end. In the end  His people will be vindicated   when  all  evil shall be cast into eternal hell . We have reason to believe that  this knowledge  not only brought tremendous comfort to John’s immediate readers but also  to us  who are currently looking at the state of the world and who are asking , “How long, oh Lord , how long ?” The  Revelation reminds us again and again : Jesus  will reign!  The Lamb of God will triumph in the end!

Revelation 18  
In  the closing verses  of  Revelation 17:15-18, John had already  announced  what the end of the great prostitute would be.  It is ironic that  the  lovers of the prostitute  (the kings of the earth) whom she had seduced will in the end  hate her and destroy her, and then ironically  again,  mourn her loss.

When the news of Babylon’s destruction is announced there are two  responses:
(i)                Heaven’s  response  in Rev. 18:  1-8 & vv.20 -24
(ii)              Earth’s response  Rev. 18:9-19 -  the lament of those who profited from the great city and who participated in her idolatry.

1.     Heaven’s Response : ( Vv 1-8) 

V.1, “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven having  great authority, and the earth was made bright with  his glory. And he called out with a  mighty voice : “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!” The doom of  Babylon was first  announced in  14:8 .  These are images of  Jeremiah 50 &51. Israel’s  prophets foretold that  Babylon and other cities  that oppressed the   people  and the work of  God in this world  would be destroyed by  God. All these OT images are  pictures   of what will happen to Babylon – the sinful city of man , the abuser of God’s people at  end of time.  Note the angels words in  vv 2-3.  The city of man  with all its seductions and glitter  and attractions  has become a haunt of demons.  Her beauty is  gone .  She  has become   exposed  for what she actually  is – a demonic  haunt ! 

A second voice from Heaven : vv 4- 8 : Then I heard another voice from heaven saying : Come out of her, my people, lest  you take  part  in her sins, lest you share in  her plagues; for her sins are heaped  up to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities .
This is  a  commandment and a  warning to God’s people,  to flee from the city  of man before God’s wrath  is poured out upon her rains down upon her (see  Jer 51:45ff ; Isa  52:11). John  stands in  the line of these prophets,  as he repeats this message for his and for  our present day. 

Remember that we are strangers and  aliens in this world (Hebr.  11:13; 1 Peter 1:1,17;2:11).
We are not at home. We live  in exile  in the city of man. We  are pilgrims through hostile territory (John Bunyan) . We are  on our way to the heavenly city  whose Designer  and Builder is God (Hebr.11:10). While it is true  that we take  our journey  in this life seriously , leaving  this world in a better shape than we have found it (fulfilling the cultural mandate)[6]  , we know that  we are destined for this better city . Our greatest challenge is  this great prostitute which continuously  seeks to  seduce us  away from our bridegroom , the Lord  Jesus Christ  and from our final goal – the heavenly city.   Here we are warned not to  be enticed, and  Jesus words  need to  be vivid reminders of  how we need to  do that ( see Matt 5:27-30). John warns us here in Revelation 18  that  the city of man (Babylon)  will be  judged  by God , and if  we  are involved in her sins  we too shall be judged with the wicked city . 

This is why the angel  says  in  vv  6-8, “ Pay her  back as she herself  has paid back others, and  repay  her  double for her deeds…” . Payback time will come  , and it  a  frightening picture of what awaits  those who have loved the city of man more than the city of God  - who have  chosen  in a rather short sighted manner  to live in this soul deadening  luxury  ( see Luke 16:19-31 – the rich  man and Lazarus).

2.      The response of the earth  as they hear of the fall of Babylon ( Vv 9-19)

In verses 9  & 10  we read :  “And the kings of the earth , who committed  sexual immorality  and lived in luxury with her, will  weep and wail over her when they see the  smoke of her burning…” . The kings of the earth loved the prostitute   because she provided them with a luxurious  and lavish lifestyle .   But her destruction comes fast  – “ in an hour” . And now there is a vacuum – it is all gone !  All is up in  smoke ! They feel a sense of dreadful loss. 
And not only the kings , but also the merchants ! ( vv 11-17) … “And the  merchants of the earth  weep and mourn for  her , since  no one buys their cargo  any  more….  ( Note … this included human souls – slave trading - v. 13) There’s a terrible sense of loss  and a resultant  emptiness here , for what do you have  if you only have these things  and no God ? What do you live for  when your riches are gone?  Do you see their dilemma ?  What does your heart hope in and long for ?
The global extent  of  the losses becomes even more  apparent in 17 b. :  “And all ship masters  and seafaring men ,  sailors, and all whose trade is on the sea   stood far off and cried out  as they saw the  smoke of her burning…” .  They join the kings of the earth and the merchants in a  great outpouring  of   grief !  “ Alas , alas, for the great city… in a single hour she has been laid waste ! ( v.  19)

Heaven rejoices ! (v.20)
Now note  the  response of heaven once again: v.20:Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you  saints and apostles and prophets, for  God has given judgment  for you against her.”  Here is your comfort ! Years of abuse will be vindicated!   And so with the knowledge that heaven rejoices while the earth mourns, John now describes the tragic, but inevitable end of the great city.
V. 21 ff: “Then a mighty angel took up  a  stone  like  a great  millstone and threw it into the sea, saying:  So will  Babylon the great city  be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more…” Her end is certain, the judgment upon her will be complete. Nothing will remain of her. 

The lesson is clear !  
·       Don’t trust  in that which the great prostitute has to offer !
·       Remember that  her  beauty is false and her wealth  is fake !
·       Remember  that all those   who are enticed by her  will  feel  a great sense of loss as the centre of their existence  is  ripped out under their feet .
·       Christians must  be vigilant and not get caught up in her  schemes . Christians  lead  productive lives  and change their world on the way to the heavenly city .
·        John  will make clear in   chapter 19  that  true riches and  satisfaction can only be found in Jesus Christ. Jesus  has died for His bride, purifying her from every sin, and Jesus provide her with a perfect righteousness.  While the bride of the beast (the prostitute ) faces certain destruction, the bride of Christ is being prepared for a glorious feast, the marriage supper of Christ the Lamb.

What will it be for you ?



[1]  The mark of the Lamb : Rev  7:3,4; 9:4 ; 15:2 ;  These are the same  whose names are written in the  Lamb’s book of lifeà   Rev 3:5;13:8;17:8; 20 :12 ;21:27
[2] The mark of the beast :  Rev. 13:16-17 ; 14:9 ; 16:2 ;19:20; 20:4
[3]Har Magedon” – literally means   “ Mount of Assembly”
[4] Pre-millenialism
[5] They base this upon Revelation 20
[6] Genesis 1:28

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