????????? Last week we spent our time taking a look at the seduction of Babylon.? Babylon may be an ancient city, a distant city, but the lure and seduction of Babylon are closer than the person sitting next to us on the pew this morning. In Revelation 17 the churches of Asia Minor, and God?s people of every age, were counseled to avoid the seductive lure of the prostitute with her alluring ways.
????????? Today we come to Revelation 18 and in this chapter of the Apocalypse we will witness the demise, the downfall of the powerful city. There are great lessons for you and me in this chapter if we will have ears to hear. As we work our way through Revelation 18 we will see that it is not just the city of Babylon, or some believe, Rome in this instance, that takes the fall, there are many who go down with her. Let?s read Revelation 18 together and then see what we can learn.
1After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2 With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. 3 For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” 4Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. 6Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. 7Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’? 8Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. 9“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. 10Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ 11“The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more– 12cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men. 14“They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 15The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! 17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. 18When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ 19They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! 20Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'” 21Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. 22The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. 23The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. 24In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” (Revelation 18:1-24 NIV)
????????? The name of the city facing her demise appears 286 times in Scripture, but here, in Revelation 18 we will read about Babylon for the final time. Babylon in Scripture is the city of the world set in opposition to the city of God.? You and I have to remember that at the time that John wrote Revelation the people of God were under attack. Persecution was underway, Emperor Domitian had set himself up as ?Lord and God? of the empire and the world, and John was writing in exile on the island of Patmos. Many have wondered, ?If John was referring to Rome and the Roman Empire why didn?t he just say it instead of using code language calling the empire, Babylon?? That is a great question. Why would he do that? I believe, and many other Bible teachers believe, that John?s message wouldn?t have gotten out if he would have named Domitian as the Beast and Babylon as the Roman Empire.
????????? With the situation going on in Asia Minor the Christians who were facing persecution knew full well who John was talking about when he described the downfall and demise of Babylon.? The question has been answered for our brothers and sisters in the first century, but the question must be answered in our day and all of the days to come before the final day??How can we avoid being tied into the Babylon of our time?? With that said let?s work our way through this powerful Scripture.
????????? First of all let me say that there are two sections of ?threes? in Revelation 17:7-18:19 followed by a final exclamation point of Babylon?s demise in Revelation 18:21-24. The first section of ?three? are the three messages of judgment by the angelic messengers. We find these in Revelation 17:7-18; 18:1-3; and 18:4-8. Next, we find three cries of lament that rise up from those who relied upon Babylon for their wealth and well-being. These are found in Revelation 18:9-10; 11-17a; and 17b-19. Last of all, we read about the final judgment of Babylon in Revelation 18:21-24.
????????? In the second and third announcement of Babylon?s demise we see that ?another angel? comes down from heaven. The angel has a huge voice, the Greek word is ?megale? (megale) from the root word, ?megas? (meg’-as) which means, ?great.?? The word is used to describe all kinds of things. ?The word is used 75 times in the book of Revelation alone. In Revelation 1:10 we read,
10On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet? (Revelation 1:10 NIV)
????????? In Revelation 6:4 word ?mega? is used to describe the sword that the rider on the red horse carried. Read along with me.
4Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. (Revelation 6:4 NIV)
In Revelation 6:12 it is used to describe the earthquake that took place at the opening of the sixth seal. In Revelation 16:9 it is used to describe the heat of the sun that scorches people during God?s judgment. In Revelation 20:12 we read about people who are ?great and small.? The word is used here to describe people, not big in stature, but those who are the ?big-man-on-campus? if you will. I wanted to point these out to you to show you the wide variety of ways that ?mega? is used in Revelation. Here in 18:2 the angel?s voice is huge, it is booming, as he cried out, ?Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!? ?If you take this verse at face value then you can conclude that the Roman Empire is already fallen, but this was not the case. The prophet speaks with confidence, as if it has already happened, but the time of the actual fall of the Roman Empire is yet to come.
This section of Revelation reminds us of God?s announcement of judgment on ancient Babylon in Isaiah 13 and Jeremiah 51 as well as His judgment against Tyre in Ezekiel 26-27 and Edom in Isaiah 34. God?s prophets throughout time stood in the midst of the city and announced the future as if it had already happened. Let me give you just one example of this from Isaiah. Isaiah spoke about the downfall of ancient Babylon before it actually took place in 689 B.C. at the hand of the Assyrians. Read along with me from Isaiah 21:9.
9 Look, here comes a man in a chariot with a team of horses. And he gives back the answer: ‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!'” (Isaiah 21:9 NIV)
With that said, now let?s turn to the ?why? of Babylon?s, or the Roman Empire?s, fall here in Revelation 18. The Roman Empire faced the judgment of God because of her turning away from God and her ?prostitution? of other nations. In verse 3 we read,
3For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” (Revelation 18:3 NIV)
????????? The?kings of the earth,?the merchants of the earth, and those who made their living by the sea?were drawn into the snare of the Roman Empire because they profited from her. We will talk about these groups a little later, but for now suffice it to say that they turned a blind eye to the sins of the Roman Empire because she was making them wealthy and secure.
????????? I?ve been thinking about this during the week and trying to come up with ways that we get trapped by the Babylons of our day. There are a myriad of ways that we see this take place today. You, as a Christian, work with integrity and are conscientious about doing a good job for your boss. One day your boss begins to shower you with gifts and bonuses that blow your mind. You get a raise, an exorbitant raise. You get a paid vacation to an exotic destination. The day before you leave he hands you an envelope with cash and you are told, ?Go and have a good time.?? When you get back the boss takes you out to lunch and shows you figures from the last quarter. He wants you to shift a few numbers here, move some cash over there, and red flags fly in your head like ?Old Glory? on Veteran?s Day.? What are you to do? He?s been so nice to you. You?ve gotten use to the extra money and the vacation was like nothing you?d ever experienced before. What do you do? In Revelation 18:4-5, another voice cries out and says,
?4Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. (Revelation 18:4-5 NIV)
????????? ?Come out of her!? Flee the seduction of Babylon! This call to flee Babylon reminds me of God?s call to Lot to flee Sodom in Genesis 19. It also reminds me of God?s call to His people in Jeremiah 51:6 where we read,
6“Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the LORD’s vengeance; he will pay her what she deserves. (Jeremiah 51:6 NIV)
????????? In the New Testament, when Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he counsels the people of God to ?come out from them and be separate.? Read along with me from 2 Corinthians 6:16-17.
16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:16-17 NIV)
????????? For us today and for the Christians of Asia Minor in the first century we must understand this instruction as a call to avoid getting ensnared by the traps awaiting us in our society. We can?t flee to some Christian oasis although I see this mentality more and more in our day. We want churches that offer turn key services for us. We want our kids to go to Christian schools, play on Christian sports teams, join Christian Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, and wear Christian Dior clothes. We want the same for ourselves. We want to cocoon ourselves in a Christian environment where we never hear a bad word, never are confronted with the sins of others, and where we can avoid the ugliness of the world. How will this broken, messy, and sinful world hear the Good News about Jesus if we do not share it with them? We are to follow in the footsteps of our Savior who willingly stepped into the mess of your life and my life and brought us Good News! Jesus stepped into our mess, but He didn?t sin, He didn?t become entangled in the snares of Babylon. In Paul?s first letter to the Church in Corinth, he wrote,
9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people– 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11 NIV)
????????? We are not to avoid those who are neck deep in the lifestyle that the world offers?we are to go to them and share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ!? The evangelists of pleasure, doom, greed, addiction, and the like are hard at it preaching their message, peddling their wares, and adding to their numbers. You and I are evangelists of life, hope, and salvation!? The people you and I are to avoid are those who call themselves followers of Jesus, but live like they?ve never met Him. They give lip service to the Lord, but that is all they give. They?ve certainly never given Him their heart. You can?t build an intimate relationship with someone who calls themselves a Christian, but lives like the devil.
????????? Let?s turn our attention for the next few minutes to those who suffered as a result of their having gotten lured into the seduction of the Roman Empire. In Revelation 18:9-19 we see three groups: There are the kings of the earth, the merchants of the earth, and those who earn their living by the sea. Each of these groups sees the demise of Rome and wails in sorrow. Their cry is not because of the downfall of Rome, but it is because their livelihood has been affected. Look at verse 9 with me.
9“When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. (Revelation 18:9 NIV)
????????? We see here that the kings of the earth ?committed adultery? with Rome and ?shared her luxury.?? The word ?luxury? in verse 9 is from the root word, ?streniao? (streniao). The word only appears in Revelation and it means, ?to live sensually, or luxuriously.?? The kings of the earth were prospering because they had entered into an idolatrous relationship with the emperor. This scene is much like the scene we read about in Ezekiel 27:32-34. Read along with me.
32 As they wail and mourn over you, they will take up a lament concerning you: “Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea?” 33 When your merchandise went out on the seas, you satisfied many nations; with your great wealth and your wares you enriched the kings of the earth. 34 Now you are shattered by the sea in the depths of the waters; your wares and all your company have gone down with you. (Ezekiel 27:32-34 NIV)
????????? In Revelation 18:11-17a we read about the shock and horror of the merchants who did business with the emperor. Why are they weeping over the fall of the empire? Verse 11 says, ?because no one buys their cargoes any more.?? In Revelation 18:14-17a we read,
14“They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ 15The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! 17 In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ (Revelation 18:14-17a NIV)
????????? The great wealth of the nation is lost so there is no longer any need for the finer things of life. You need to know that all of the items listed for us in Revelation 18 are items that were useful for the upper class, the wealthy of Rome. Robert H. Mounce writes,
The excessive luxury of Rome and its passion for the extravagant are well known. At one of Nero?s banquets the Egyptian roses alone cost nearly $100,000. Vitellius had a penchant for delicacies like peacocks? brains and nightingales? tongues. In his reign of less than one year he spent $20,000,000 mostly on food. One Roman, after squandering an immense fortune, committed suicide because he could not live on the pittance that remained?about $300,000. In the Talmud it is written, ?Ten measures of wealth came down into the world: Rome received nine, and all the world one.? Small wonder that the suppliers of such gross extravagance mourned the passing of their market. (Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, pg. 332)
????????? The Roman ?Rodeo Drive? was wide and long and many profited from the wealth of the nation.? The problem is that the nation was rotten to the core, pagan to the bone, and its demise was as certain as the rising of the sun!
????????? There are twenty-nine items listed in Revelation 18:12-13. The list is similar to a list that we find in Ezekiel 27:12-25, only the list in Ezekiel is much longer. There is an even greater similarity between Ezekiel 27 and Revelation 18?the end of Tyre, the subject of Ezekiel 27, and the Babylon of Revelation 18, Rome, are the same?the end has come! You will mock God no longer, you will persecute God?s people no longer, you will not continue your charade of injustice and slaughter any longer! The end has come!
????????? I was struck by reading the list of items this past week. Many Bible teachers believe that the items are listed in order of their importance to the Romans. If you will notice the first few items on the list are ?gold, silver, precious stones and pearls.? ?It is said that Julius Caesar gave Servilias a single pearl that cost more than $18,000. These were the things that were most important to the people of Rome. I want you to now look down the list to find what was least important to them. The end of Revelation 18:13 says,??and bodies and souls of men.?? That really set me back when I gave it thought this past week. The people were captivated by the high life, the good life, the lap of luxury. They didn?t value people. There were some slaves in the Roman Empire who worked in the houses of their masters, but there were other slaves who were simply for the fun and games, the entertainment, of the Romans. These slaves fought and died in the great Coliseum while the crowds looked on and cheered. Some believe that there were as many as 60,000,000 slaves in the Roman Empire. What a tragedy it is when human life is so devalued.
????????? I think about our own day. I want you to think about our day as well. How do you see people being devalued in our time? Do you see how some people are given more respect and value simply because of what they do or what they have? I have a good friend who mows yards for a living. He came here from Mexico and he earns his living. He supports several members of his family, both here in the U.S. and back home in Mexico. He was at my house one day and we were talking about his business when he told me how difficult it is to work for some of his rich clients. He said that some of them are demanding, they treat him like he is less than they are, and they are always trying to beat him out of a dollar. Let me tell you, if you are one of those folks who treat people with such arrogance and pride, you need to repent and apologize for God is their Defender. ?He is also the Great Judge who will bring every semblance of Babylon and the mentality of the Romans down in His time.
????????? In Revelation 18:17b-19 we read about those who make their living by the sea. They are broken and full of sorrow just like the kings of the earth and the merchants of the earth. Once again, they are not sad about the fall of the nation, but they are sad because their ride on the highway of opulence and luxury has come to an end. As they watch the smoke rise over the once great city they cry out, ?Was there ever a city like this great city??? This reminds me of what was said about Tyre when that mighty nation crumbled. In Ezekiel 27:32 we read,
32 As they wail and mourn over you, they will take up a lament concerning you: “Who was ever silenced like Tyre, surrounded by the sea?” (Ezekiel 27:32 NIV)
????????? The word translated, ?silenced,? is the Hebrew word, ?dummah? (dummah) and it means, ?one silenced, one quieted by destruction, or one destroyed.? ?Was there ever a city like Babylon? Was there ever a city like Tyre? Oh, stick around for a couple of more weeks and I will show you a city like you cannot even imagine!
????????? In Revelation 18:21-24 we see the final announcement of the certain end to Babylon. Look at verse 21 with me and I will show you what I was talking about earlier in our study. If you will remember, back in verse 2 we read, ?Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!? ?Here in verse 21 we read,
21Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. (Revelation 18:21 NIV)
????????? ?Past tense??? ?Future??? Yes!? Babylon of old has fallen! The ?Babylon? in which the people of God were living under Domitian?s heavy hand will fall!? It is certain. You can bank on it. God will bring down the oppressor just like He has always brought down the oppressor. Just like He will always and one day, finally, bring down the last oppressor of God?s people and Kingdom!
????????? Domitian and those who have adopted his idolatrous ways are served notice?your days are numbered!? You may have the upper hand now, but a change is going to come! Your streets may be filled with laughter now, but a change is going to come. A change is going to come! You may be living in the lap of luxury now, but a change is going to come! You may be oppressing people now, but a change is going to come! You may be profiting off of the Beast, but a change is going to come! A change is going to come!? Your immoral parties will be exchanged for funeral processions. The laughter in your streets will be changed to wails of sorrow. Your erotic get togethers will be exchanged for the stench of rottenness. Your designer clothes made of the finest of materials will be exchanged for sackcloth. Oh, a change is coming. Just as the large millstone disappeared into the sea, so will the great immoral city! A change is going to come.
????????? Make no mistake about it my friends, the Day of the Lord has come in the past. He has brought down every Babylon, Edom, Tyre, and Roman Empire that have thumbed their nose at Him in the past. God is at work in our day today and it may look like the evil dictators and oppressive governments around the world are getting away with it, but don?t be deceived?every enemy will fall, but our God will reign.
This Scripture should cause those of us who live in the United States of America to take note. We live in the wealthiest country in the world. How does this Scripture speak to us? What are to make of this judgment on the Roman Empire?? I say, ?Flee Babylon!? I?m not saying that America is Babylon, but I am saying that you and I are not to be seduced by the snares that trapped the kings of the earth, the merchants of the earth, or those who made their living by the sea. Don?t compromise your walk with God for money, prestige, power, or position. Don?t compromise your faith by selling out to the idols of pleasure or power.? Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.
I will tell you this: there is no way for us to avoid the seduction of society apart from a living, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. The pull is too strong. The promises are too attractive. If you want to have the strength to resist the pull of the Babylonian mentality and lifestyle then it is imperative that this very morning you surrender your life to Jesus Christ. Invite Him into your heart as Lord of your life so that no other lord may take its seat on the throne room of your heart.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
February 11, 2007