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Rejoicing in Her Fall

Revelation

Oct 8, 2023


by: Jack Lash Series: Revelation | Category: The World | Scripture: Revelation 18:20– 19:6

I. Introduction
A. 1John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (Cf. James 4:4)
1. Well, the world of which John speaks in this verse is depicted in his vision in Revelation 17-19 as a great prostitute, tempting, seducing, enticing people to lure them away from Christ.
2. The great prostitute is also referred to as Babylon the great, so I’ll be using those interchangeably.
B. Today, we finish Rev.18 and begin Rev.19, continuing in the same context as last week. The only shift is that whereas last week we looked at the fall of Babylon (the great prostitute) and the reaction of those who loved her, this week we look at the reaction of those who hate her. That’s why the sermon is entitled, “Rejoicing in Her Fall.”
C. I’m going to read Rev.18:20-24 now, and I’ll read Rev.19:1-6 when we get to it.
D. Revelation 18:20-24 “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” 21 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; 22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, 23 and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
II. Explanation of Rev.18:20-24
A. Revelation 18:20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”
1. While others are lamenting at her destruction (ch.18), believers are called to rejoice.
2. As we read of the saints’ rejoicing over the fall of Babylon here, we ought to remember what we read in Rev.11:10 about the wicked rejoicing over the murder of the two witnesses (who represent Jesus’ witnessing church) because their preaching of the gospel had been a torment to them. They not only rejoiced over them, but they made merry and exchanged presents to celebrate. But their party doesn’t last. In the end the tables are turned and it is the believers who do the celebrating. And he who laughs last, laughs best.
3. I do not want to give the impression that God rejoices in the suffering of the wicked. The delight in Babylon’s suffering isn’t over the suffering of the people but over the demonstration of God’s justice, and the demonstration of the integrity of Christians’ faith & God’s just character.
a. This is important. This rejoicing does not arise out of a selfish spirit of revenge, but out of a fulfilled hope that God has defended the honor of His just name by not leaving sin unpunished and by showing His people to have been in the right all along and the verdict rendered by the ungodly world against the saints to have been wrong (6:10).
B. Rev.18:21 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;
1. This is a powerful image of the fall of Babylon. All of us have experienced the dramatic impact of a large stone falling into the water. There is an impact which can not only be heard but felt.
2. This picture of the great stone being thrown into the water seems to be based on Jer.51:63-64, where Jeremiah commands his servant to “tie a stone” to a scroll of the prophecy of Babylon’s judgment, and “throw it into the middle of the Euphrates (River),” declaring that in this same way Babylon will sink down and never again rise. The similarities are too many to be a coincidence.
3. But a subtle change has occurred. Jeremiah has it as a plain stone. Rev.18:21 has a stone like a great millstone. So, why the change from a stone to a millstone?
4. Well, this is not just connected to Jer.51, it is also picking up on Jesus’ warning that whoever causes His little ones to stumble would be better off having a millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the sea (Matt.18:6). And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Those who have caused the little children of Jesus to stumble are being thrown into the sea like a great millstone, just like Jesus said.
C. Revelation 18:22–23a and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, 23 and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more,
1. The sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, the work of the craftsman, the sound of the mill, the light of a lamp, the voice of bridegroom and bride – none of these things is inherently evil. They are all things that God has given mankind to enjoy.
2. The problem is that while they were enjoying God's good gifts they were idolaters and God-haters. They were not enjoying these things as precious gifts of God. They were enjoying them for themselves without regard to God and His goodness.
3. And now God’s patience has run out. And so the party’s over!! Even the happy things, the positive things, the pleasant things, the ordinary things, the necessary things will be destroyed.
4. We must always keep this in mind when we relate to the world. We must not be taken in by the pleasant things of the world and forget what Satan’s agenda is, and how he wants to use even pleasant things to lead people astray.
5. As we enjoy God’s gifts every day, we ought to remember what the things of the earth are: future trash. They are useful for a time, but they have no enduring value.
D. Revelation 18:23b-24 for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
1. The angel’s pronouncement of devastation begun in v. 21 continues with three reasons for Babylon’s destruction in v.23b-24.
a. The first reason for Babylon’s destruction is that her “merchants were the great ones of the earth.”
(1) The point here is that these merchants were full of themselves. They thought of themselves as great ones. They were concerned only for their own glory instead of acting as servants of God and stewards of what He had given.
(2) This can be seen in the fact that the kings and merchants and shipmasters all lamented when the great prostitute was thrown down – because they had nothing else to live for.
(3) The chief purpose of humanity is to glorify God and to enjoy Him, not to glorify oneself and enjoy one’s own achievements (e.g., Rev.4:11; 5:12-13; 7:12; 15:3-4; 16:9; 19:1, 7).
(4) It is idolatrous to see oneself as “great.” Only God is truly great. And compared to Him we are the opposite of great.
(5) To focus on humanity as the center of everything & to forget God is actually the heart of sin.
b. The second reason for Babylon’s judgment is that all the nations were deceived by her sorcery.
(1) We don’t talk about sorcery much, but there’s no denying that countless multitudes of people have been deceived by sorcery. Talk to Margaret/Fabrice/Michelle, if you want to hear more.
(2) When we were in the hospital in Dakar, Senegal with our sick son, instead of a chaplain making himself available, there was a witch doctor.
c. In v.24 we see the third reason for Babylon’s judgment: “And in her was found the blood of the prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.”
(1) Sometimes if a great shark is killed, they cut it open to see what it had eaten, and find some very interesting things. Here in the great prostitute’s stomach is found the blood of the prophets and of saints, along with others who have been slain on the earth.
(2) Here we see the major role persecution played in inciting the justice of God against Babylon.
(3) A vast number of God’s precious children have been killed for their faith all over the world through history, & it continues today. And even those who are not killed are often mistreated.
(4) If you cause one of His little ones to stumble, you’d be better off to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea (Matt.18:6). How much worse if you not only cause them to stumble, but you mock them, belittle them, abuse them – and murder them.
E. There is an interesting contrast in Rev.18 between the grieving of the lost in v.9-19 and the rejoicing of the saints in v.20-24. Remember the laments of the kings, merchants and seafarers?
1. The lost, we saw, grieve over Babylon’s fall because it affects their personal earthly prosperity.
2. The saints, on the other hand, rejoice over Babylon’s destruction not merely because it vindicates them or is advantageous to them, but especially because it demonstrates the righteousness and justice of God in dealing with evil. They do not rejoice because they have “won” at the expense of others, but because God has been vindicated.
3. What ultimately distinguishes the two from one another is the willingness (or unwillingness) to acknowledge God and give Him the honor and worship He’s due.
4. The lost are completely wrapped up in their own self-interest. Even the destruction of the entire world system concerns them only because of its devastating effect on their own fortunes.
5. And so it is with our man-centered society, which refuses to recognize God as the center of all things, and instead pursues earthly prosperity, earthly pleasures and earthly popularity – without regard to what is right & wrong, without regard to the welfare of others, without regard to God.
III. Explanation of Rev.19:1-6
A. As we move into Rev.19, the subject returns to the first phrase of 18:20, about the people of God rejoicing in God’s judgment of the great prostitute.
B. Revelation 19:1-6 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” 3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” 6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
C. The first thing to say here is that this adventure we call life, no matter how many tears fall in the process, has a very happy ending for believers in Christ. In the end, there is relief; there is joy; there is vindication; there is final victory; there is great reward.
1. The entire assembly of God’s people praise Him at the consummation of history for His judgment of the world and His salvation of His people – both by His mighty power.
2. This is a great encouragement to us as we live lives of uncertainty, tribulation and grief.
3. Knowing that – in the end – everything wicked which now seems so unconquerable will be brought so low — it makes our burdens manageable by giving us a sense of proportion – along with courage, confidence and patience.
D. And the word which characterizes this great celebration is Hallelujah.
1. I have just read you – in Rev.19:1-6 – all four of the times the word hallelujah is used in the NT.
2. Hallelujah is a very interesting word. It’s actually two Hebrew words put together.
a. HALELU is a Hebrew verb meaning praise. (I remember conjugating this verb in my seminary Hebrew class: HALEL...HALELI...HALELU...HALELNA.)
b. The YAH is a shortened version of YAHWEH, the name God called himself to Moses, meaning I am that I am.
c. So, the word is a combination of HALELU and YAH : Praise Yahweh, Praise Jehovah, often translated Praise the LORD.
3. I’ve heard that it’s the only word on earth which is the same in every language. So, if you meet a Christian who speaks a different language, one word you know you have in common is hallelujah.
4. How fitting is its use in the Hallelujah Chorus!
E. We see a reference to persecution in v.2: "He has avenged the blood of His servants on her."
1. This shows us that persecution is a major cause of this judgment on Babylon.
2. In fact, it seems that this whole judgment is largely in answer to the prayers of the suffering saints who cried for vengeance in 6:9-11: “O Sovereign Lord, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
3. Here again we see how personally God takes the persecution of His people, like a man does if someone attacks his wife or child. And that's exactly what His people are: His bride (see v.7) and His children.
4. Our first GPC missionaries were Mark & Kelly Thompson. Kelly dad was a local pastor named Dick Overgard. He told me a story one day about something which happened when Kelly was a young toddler. He heard a commotion one day and ran outside to find his little daughter screaming on the ground underneath one of their roosters, who was pecking at her mercilessly. After rescuing his daughter and bringing her inside to be tended to by his wife, he went back out to deal with the rooster. He not only killed the rooster, he destroyed it so severely that he claimed there was nothing left to dispose of when he was done. This story of the rooster is – to this day – one of Kelly’s favorite stories to remind her of her father’s love for her.
5. And it reminds me of the love God has for His people. Over and over in Scripture we see that God’s enormous love for His precious children moves Him to take fiery vengeance against those who mercilessly abuse them.
6. Vengeance is not a dirty word. Romans 12:19 “Vengeance is Mine! I will repay!” says the Lord.
7. But it’s also important to remember that God’s vengeance is not arbitrary or capricious. It goes hand-in-hand with His justice and righteousness. He is not a sadist; He does not take delight in the death of the wicked (Ezek.33:11), though He does delight in His justice and righteousness not leaving sin unpunished. He also demonstrates His justice by vindicating His people: showing that they were right in embracing His truth, and showing that the ungodly world was wrong in their condemnation of His saints.
F. One last thing here. Notice the content of the praises. God is being praised for who He is and that His judgments are righteous and true, that He has judged the harlot, that He reigns over all.
1. It’s easy for us to focus our praise on the earthly blessings God has provided.
a. It is perfectly appropriate, of course, to praise God for the earthly things He does in our lives, and it’s a sin not to.
b. But we also need to step back and just praise Him for who He is and what He is doing in the world, and how He rules over everything in the world for His own glory.
2. Otherwise, we’re not fixing our eyes on the things above.
IV. The contrast couldn’t be more clear. There are two realms. And we must belong to one or the other.
A. Jesus said this over and over again: “Whoever is not with me is against me.” – Matthew 12:30
B. James 4:4 “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
C. Colossians 1:13 tells us that “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”
D. In Revelation, these two realms are depicted as two women:
1. The great prostitute who seduces people into sin
2. The bride of Christ made ready for her marriage to Christ upon His return
E. They are also depicted as two great cities, Babylon the great & the new Jerusalem. Just as God’s people are pictured as a new Jerusalem, so the world is depicted as a new Babylon.
F. In most of the NT, these two dominions are spoken of as present realities, but in the book of Revelation, we also see their future destinies:
1. The new Jerusalem descending from heaven in glory, built on an unshakable foundation (Rev.21)
2. Babylon the great is thrown down and destroyed. In the end, those who invested their lives in her have no meaning, no hope, no anchor, no God. It all vanishes in the smoke. No wonder they lament! They gave their all but end up with nothing.
G. And so, Rev.18:4-5 warns God’s people living in this present world to “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.” Those wishing to be saved must leave Babylon or suffer her fate.
H. Leaving Babylon does not mean physical isolation. For now we must remain in the world, but in our hearts we must be of Christ, not of the world.
I. Jesus talked about this to His disciples in John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”