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A. Review of the great prostitute who is call Babylon the great.
1. In Rev.17 we were introduced to the great prostitute, who was identified with Babylon the great in Revelation 17:5, “On her forehead was written a name of mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.’”
2. We saw that even though she’s literally carried along by Satan, she is beautiful & enchanting because she is out to seduce people away from Christ (Rev.17:4).
3. We said she represented the city of man, or humanity in rebellion against God.
4. But why is she called Babylon the great? Let’s talk a little history:
a. It all started with the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:4 “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.”
b. Then around 597BC the Jewish nation were conquered by the mighty empire of Babylon and brought there to exile for 70 years. There, they were subjugated and oppressed by a people and an empire which built their great success on the backs of weaker peoples and nations.
c. King Nebuchadnezzar on the palace roof: “Is not this Babylon the great, which I have built by my mighty power for the glory of my majesty?” Daniel 4:30
5. But it was not just the prostitute and her role in Satan’s service that we were introduced to, it was also her judgment: One of the seven angels said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute.” (Rev.17:1, cf. Rev.14:8) It’s mainly in ch.18 that we read of her judgment.
B. It is our ambitious task this morning to cover 19 verses. Because our passage is so long, I’m going to read each of its four parts as we come to it instead of reading the whole thing at the beginning.
II. The fall of Babylon predicted (1-3)
A. Revelation 18:1-3 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. 3 For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
B. This angel might well be Christ Himself, for every other time a heavenly being is described as having glory in the book of Revelation, it is describing God or Christ (God: 4:9, 11; 5:13; 7:12; 11:13; 14:7; 15:8; 16:9; 19:1; 21:11, 23; Christ: 1:6; 5:12-13). He announces the fall of Babylon.
C. And we see that one day the world of human lust and human pride and human self-exaltation will be judged with great fury for all the sin it has caused and promoted.
1. One day everything that looks new and exciting and fun and cool in this world will lie in ruins. It will no longer matter who was popular or beautiful or in style or who won the award or the game.
2. One day the world of pleasure and thrills and luxury and money-making will be exposed for what it truly is: a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for unclean spirits, unclean birds like vultures, and detestable beasts like hyenas (Is.13:20-22; 34:11).
a. Outwardly she looked resplendent, but behind it all, there was only death and demons.
b. It looked like she was going to provide prosperity and pleasure, but it was all a scam.
D. What’s the point here? God wants us to live in the knowledge of what is going to happen, and not to live by appearances, and not to live as if this present world is permanent!
E. And the voice which announces this is loud, because God wants to get our attention, so we won’t miss it, for we’re all in danger of falling under Babylon’s spell, oblivious to our impending doom.
III. God’s people urged to separate from Babylon before her judgment, lest they suffer with her (4-5)
A. Revelation 18:4-5 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; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.”
B. The world has its form of coming out. Here is the Christian and Biblical form of coming out!
C. It is God’s cry for His people to come out of Babylon, to come out of the world, before pouring His judgment upon her.
D. It reminds us of Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen.19, when God told Lot to flee the city so that they might be destroyed in the day of His judgment.
E. This is a warning to believers who are being tempted to buy into the world’s idolatrous system, and also an encouragement to those who are standing firm in their refusal to compromise.
F. This call to come out must not be taken as a command to withdraw from the social or economic life of the world. We are not supposed to be OF the world, but we ARE supposed to live IN it.
G. The coming out here is not isolationism. It’s talking about being morally and spiritually distinctive. It’s talking about our identity, our security, and the location of our delight. It’s all about worship.
H. And every Sunday worship service is a coming out party!
IV. A cry for judgment to fall on Babylon (6-8)
A. 6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed. 7 As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ 8 For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”
B. This cry is probably the angel crying out to God to judge Babylon, but it could instead be the cry of God to His agents of judgment to pour our His judgment upon her. It really doesn’t matter, because the message is clear: Babylon will be paid back for all that she has done and is doing.
1. She is glorifying herself instead of glorifying God.
2. She in living in luxury at the expense of others.
3. She has unbridled self-confidence that she is and will always be the queen of the hill.
a. (Is.47:7 said of earthly Babylon, “You said, ‘I shall be a queen forever,’ ” and here spiritual Babylon speaks virtually the same words.)
C. She will be paid back severely, with plagues, with death, with mourning, with famine, with fire.
D. She will be paid back suddenly, “her plagues will come in a single day.”
E. And it is the mighty Lord God who will bring this judgment upon her.
F. — Now there might seem to be a little contradiction here in these verses.
1. V.6a and 7 says that she should be paid back in like measure for what she has done to others.
2. But v.6b and 6c say that she should be paid back double for her deeds.
3. But this isn’t really a problem. This doubling of judgment is merely a Hebrew expression for fullness and completeness, as we see in Is.40:2; Jer.16:18; Matt.23:15; 1Tim.5:17).
G. This passage may sound stark, but it is very much what Jesus taught, e.g. Luke 6:24-26 “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
H. Satan wants us to think that the pleasure never ends and that there will be no consequences for sin.
1. He loves it when we have swagger, and brim with self-confidence and arrogance.
2. God calls us to live in fear and trembling, always aware of the shortness of our lives.
3. The world looks only at today & chooses not to worry about tomorrow. But tomorrow is coming.
I. Do you remember the OT story of the handwriting on the wall in Daniel 5? King Belshazzar of Babylon was feeling high and mighty, so he ordered that the vessels and utensils which the Babylonian army had taken from God’s temple in Jerusalem be used at his big party. But then there appeared a giant hand writing a message on the wall. Daniel the prophet interpreted the message to mean that God was bringing the number of their days to an end because of their sin and giving the Babylonian kingdom over to the Medes and the Persians. And Dan.5:30-31 says, “That very night Belshazzar the king of Babylon was killed. And Darius the Mede became king.”
1. Even as disaster came upon glorious, powerful, earthly Babylon in one day (Is.47:9), so will it be with spiritual Babylon some day soon.
V. After the judgment of Babylon, those who cooperated with her will lament (v.9-19), for they prospered because of her, and, when she falls, they will be plunged into despair as a result.
A. First, it focuses on the lament of the kings of the earth (9-10),
1. 9 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. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
B. Then the lament of the merchants of the earth (11-17a),
1. 11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. 14 “The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!” 15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, 16 “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! 17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
C. And finally the lament of the mariners (17b-19).
1. And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” 19 And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
D. Overall there are two groups who mourn the fall of Babylon.
1. One is the business people who have made a killing off selling worldly pleasures and services to the intoxicated masses, but now they have lost their business, their cash cow is gone.
2. The other is the masses who mourn because they no longer have access to the intoxicating delights of the world, which brought them so many thrills and pleasures.
3. These people are on the verge of losing something far greater than their material wealth or earthly pleasures, but their obsession with these things makes them numb to their doom.
E. These cries of lamentation are nowhere close to true repentance, of course. They’re expressions of grief over their own demise. These people are mourning in agony because they have lost the one thing they were counting on, the thing which made them happy, the thing they really believed in. And now it’s gone. And their happiness, their security and their very life are gone with it.
1. You can see this in v.14 “The fruit which your soul longed for has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!”
2. — And that word “splendors” is significant. The word is used often to refer to the brightness of God (e.g Revelation 22:16; 21:11, 23-24). But instead of being enthralled with the brightness of God, they instead became enthralled with the brightness of created things, just like Paul talks about in Rom.1:22-23.
F. And part of their shock is the suddenness and quickness of Babylon’s destruction, which is repeated three times:
1. 10 “In a single hour your judgment has come.”
2. 17 “In a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
3. 19 “In a single hour she has been laid waste.”
4. Why is this revealed and why is it so emphasized? So that we will not think of this world and its structures as solid and firmly established, but see them as fragile and temporary and ready to crash in a moment. And so that we will not feel confident that it’s coming will be obvious ahead of time so we’ll have time to get our house in order beforehand.
A. Even if you don’t feel like you have fully grasped the meaning of this passage, you can still grasp its intensity, its power and its seriousness.
1. First of all, you can grasp the point that the whole God-thing is not a game. As we edge closer and closer to the climax of the book of Revelation, it becomes more and more apparent that God really means business and that the Christian faith is not something to be taken lightly.
2. You can grasp the threat here & the danger for those who buy into the world system & delights.
3. In some people’s minds, you are a Christian of you think Christianity is the best religion. Or they talk as if there are Christians and then there are devout Christians.
4. How can there be non-devout Christians in light of the book of Revelation? In Rev.3:16 God says the lukewarm make Him want to vomit!
5. My point is not that you should work on becoming more devout. My point is that you should know that there is an all-powerful yet invisible God who has revealed Himself in the Scriptures and in His Son, Jesus Christ, who is going to return as judge to gather His people to Himself and throw His enemies into a place of eternal torment.
6. If that is true, then the only thing that really matters is how we deal with Christ! Everything else is trivial in comparison.
7. What good is it to be successful and popular and rich and the envy of others if everything is soon to change in a moment. If all of it is going to burn, if all our most precious treasures will turn to trash, what’s the point of collecting it or showing it off or feeling secure because of it?
8. “In a single hour all this wealth will be laid waste.” (Rev.18:17; Cf. 1Cor.15:52, 1Thes.5:2.)
9. Beloved, we can’t be flirting with the things of the world!
10. The world is full of compromisers – people content to live and be part of a corrupt system and avoid the consequences of taking a stand. But it must not be so with us!
11. Jesus says, “Come out of her, my people!”
12. God made us to long for paradise. But He also told us we can’t have it now, we must wait for it.
13. Satan comes along and says we actually can have it now. And that’s attractive. And he makes godly standards seem odd and sinful values seem normal, so it’s easy to be lulled into giving in.
14. And even for those who know better, it’s easy to flirt with sin, isn’t it? Remember, it IS impressive! Even John marveled! It definitely appeals to something inside us.
15. But Jesus says we’ve got to come out, we’ve got to leave the world behind, or we’ll get caught up in her sin and in her judgment.
B. This is especially hard for people who have a lot. We long to be rich or beautiful or talented or popular or successful, but these things make it more difficult to resist the pull of the world.
1. That’s why Jesus said that it’s hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt.19:23).
2. There is nothing wrong with being rich, mind you, or beautiful or talented or popular or successful. It’s just hard for people like that to remember that all of that is really nothing.
3. That’s why Paul charges the rich not to be haughty or set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but only on God. He tells them to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, so as to store up treasure for eternity, and take hold of that which is TRULY life. (1Timothy 6:17-19)
C. I love the way Revelation 18:14 puts, “THE FRUIT FOR WHICH YOUR SOUL LONGED has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!”
1. What is the fruit for which our souls long?
2. Instead of being satisfied with the cornucopia of fruit which God had given them, Adam and Eve longed for the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were fooled into thinking that what the serpent offered them was life, when it was really death.
3. And Rev.18 is a wake up call! Like a parent shouts at a toddler who is about to walk out into the street, Christ speaks in a loud voice to gain our attention! Don’t go out in that street! It looks safe and exciting, but there are dangerous things there that can kill you!
D. — Now of course, even true believers can be lured by the world and stumble.
1. In fact, we see in Scripture that sometimes believers feel this same sense in invincibility.
a. We see it in Ps.30:6, where the psalmist says, “I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’”
b. But God sent him circumstances to shake him up. “You hid Your face. I was dismayed.” Ps.30:7
c. But this was not to destroy the psalmist but to humble him.
2. You see, God sends His children many little “judgment days” to humble us.
3. It’s like the difference between Judas and Peter. They both were unfaithful to Jesus. They both gave in to worldly pressure.
4. But Judas’ was fatal and permanent while Peter’s was neither. What’s the difference?
5. Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
6. Sometimes believers are lured into imbibing of the world’s pleasures. But if we belong to the Lord, He doesn’t leave us there. He pulls us back, just like Jesus pulled Peter up from the sea when he was sinking (because he had taken his eyes off Jesus - Matt.14:30-31).