The rest of Revelation: focused on end of this age, events immediately connected with Second Coming of Christ. Based on vision he saw, interpretation given by angel, John presented compelling picture of kingdom of Satan’s two-pronged assault on kingdom of Christ. Power and persuasion, domination and deception – closely allied, used to greatest advantage throughout intervening time between advents.
Adolf Hitler a reasonable example of both in action: deceiving German people and foreign governments at times, using power of persuasion to move large crowds to buy into his plan. At same time, exercise of force to dominate German Jews, weak or non-compliant neighbors, implementation of anti-Semitism and Social Darwinism. Not really unique in most ways, principles Hitler espoused were practiced before 20th century, persist in some forms even in our nation today.
Chapter 17 should alert Christians to Satan’s tactics, put us on our guard against them. Chapter 18 encourages us – we’re not on an endless wheel of life, the end is coming. God will deal with “the problem of evil” and all its agents once for all. Satan is highly deceptive, not all Christians are equally perceptive; final warning is given to those who might have been taken in, just as God graciously did for Lot and his family.
When last bowl is finally poured out, it will finally be done – the city of man is utterly destroyed leaving the city of God. Satan will be stripped of all his power to dominate and deceive, blood of the martyrs will be avenged as cry of saints around heavenly altar is answered. In process of destruction and judgment, all illusion will be removed; city of man will be seen for what it truly is, kingdom of Satan. In John’s description of the end, echoes of woe against Babylon – Isa. 13:19-22, Jer. 50 & 51; against “Edom” – Isa. 34:10-14; promise of total and final judgment/destruction. This time the kingdom will fall and NEVER rise again.
A. announcement and warning v.1-8
Babylon is fallen (1-3) From near the beginning of human history conflict promised as part of mankind’s lot. Enmity between seed of woman and seed of serpent. A chapter later, first murderer began constructing a city (Gen. 4:17). Theme continued after flood; land of Shinar (Babylonia), began to build another replacement city, Babel; this time one that would have tower reaching to heaven (Gen. 11:4). City may appear invincible, has survived for millennia, has acquired incredible possessions and prosperity. Authoritative message from heaven itself – Babylon is done, her spiritual uncleanness and immorality evident for all to see.
Come out of her (4-5) Another authoritative (warning) message from heaven: Run while there’s still time; your soul is safe in God’s keeping, but he’s not obligated to protect your body from hard stuff. Warning primarily to saints before the end comes, especially those who are weak in understanding or have succumbed to temptation to play with fire. e.g., I have own personal high standards but I don’t mind making a profit off those who don’t have such standards. Warning includes reminder that God’s patience not forever: “God has remembered”, tower may not have reached heaven but sins have.
Pay her back (6-8) Will not be long period of decay ending in her demise; will be sudden and quick, obviously God’s judgment. Will be act of true justice – render as she rendered; her double portion is a certain death sentence – a double dose of blood of murdered saints (Rev. 17:6). Will occur on promised “Day of the Lord”, no one associated with city will escape doom just as for Sodom. Form of payback: destroyed by things she thought she was immune to. queen/no widow/no sorrow <==> death/mourning/famine. Kingdom of man intended to provide insurance against these things; no help whatever against consuming fire of God’s justice.
B. mourning on earth v.9-19
kings weep and lament (9) merchants weep and mourn (11) seafaring men cry out weeping and wailing (19) Men of all walks of life mourn that all they trusted in for security – power, position, posessions – disappeared in an hour. Kings recognize as judgment of God (10); merchants see only end to their bright future, no more sales (11), sailors no more need for transportation (19). Not a word of regret about the evils which their various dealings encouraged: love of excess and temporal things (14), traffic in human lives (slavery) (13).
standing at a distance
kings fear her torment (10) – unfaithful to their duties (3)
none want to associate Babylon’s guilt with their own; for an hour, still delude themselves into thinking they can survive even if city-prostitute doesn’t. At same time, know they are also guilty, have been unfaithful to their duties. Recognize justice when they see it, know they have not been just in their own conduct toward those under their care. Consequently have instinctive fear that their turn is coming, especially if they stand too close.
merchants fear her torment (15) – profiting from pursuit of worldly pleasure (3)
Problem isn’t profit-making, isn’t with material possessions; things in list with few exceptions that which was made by God for man’s enjoyment (1 Tim. 6:17). Problem was attitude toward things – pride of possession, trust in riches – both merchants and customers guilty of bad attitude. Manifested in failure to give God credit as source of good things, confidence placed in gift rather than giver. Accompanied by indulging desires, acquiring stuff in excess, pleasing self rather than God. Result: slavery real and spiritual; some enslaved to satisfy desires of others – financial bondage, sex trafficking, etc. All enslaved in sin and bondage to Satan and his system.
sailors cry out (18-19) – dependent entirely on world system to meet their needs
It is a world system that comes crashing down, not hard to imagine in a day of “global economy”. Currencies, stock markets, supply chains interconnected globally, influenced by international economic and political conditions. Turmoil in one area of world ripples throughout entire global community. Sailors here have vantage point that helps them see extent of Babylon’s influence, effect of her fall. Since entire system is destroyed, no group anywhere escapes disaster; the end of Satan’s kingdom spells their end also.
C. rejoicing in heaven v.20-24
Conditions on earth, in city of man, kingdom of Satan: weep and lament, weep and mourn, weeping and wailing, cried out – despair and perhaps premonition of personal doom, akin to that immediately before heart attack. Mood in heaven much different, in fact, opposite end of spectrum. Just as lost, those with mark of the beast, in absolute despair soon to be followed by unceasing rage, so the redeemed rejoice at overthrow of evil. View of saints centered on God and his actions from heavenly perspective; rejoicing is over what God has accomplished, not misery of those experiencing his wrath.
apostles and prophets have been avenged (20) Justice has been served on behalf of messengers sent by God for benefit/good of his people and world. Ambassadors were ridiculed, persecuted, ignored, killed; God has last word, brings about final retributive (eye for eye) justice. As they did, so shall be done to them.
judgment is final (21-23a) Sudden, violent, forceful and final – as millstone splashes in the ocean never to be seen again, so will be end of Babylon. Finality is reinforced by more imagery: no more entertainment/pleasure, commercial enterprise; all is darkness and desolation, will be no future generations or any infrastructure to support them. This is “The End”.
judgment is just (23b-24) God is not capricious, operating on “impulse or whim rather than by necessity or reason” (WordNet). Nor does God condemn pleasure or prosperity. He punishes Babylon, the lost, for their sinful thoughts and actions directed against Christ and his church. If God is holy and righteous and just, he must deal with evil and evildoers. John assures the persecuted church that God will indeed judge his enemies – guarding his holiness, vindicating his righteousness, and executing justice on the cosmic stage.
Paul, contemplating his imminent departure from life, told Timothy he had fought a good fight, he had reached the finish line, in the process had kept the faith. In light of that Paul anticipated receiving a crown of righteousness on “that Day”, the Day of the Lord, one he has appointed for Christ’s return. On that Day, Babylon will finally fall, the lost will be judged and righteous rewarded. Paul also told Timothy same crown of righteousness was laid up for others also – identified as “all who have loved his appearing”. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
Challenge for us is to live the way Paul did, finishing well. Need constant reminders of what is true and faithful so we quickly recognize the counterfeit. Yes, do have to say “No” to things displeasing to God, but that’s only very small piece of whole. Much bigger piece: saying “Yes” to all the right and good stuff. Filling up the spaces in our lives with what is pleasing to God. More we feast on God’s goodness, less appealing will be what world has to offer.
Research clearly shows people do much better grocery shopping on full rather than empty stomach. Same is true when comes to other areas of life. If we are filled and satisfied with God and the blessings he provides – his Spirit, his word, his church – we will have little or no interest in looking elsewhere for satisfaction. For Paul and for us, crown is wonderful reward; really, though, it represents God rewarding the work he has done in and through us. Even that pales in comparison to reward of the Lord Jesus – experiencing him face to face, no more hindrance to enjoying him because of our remaining sinfulness; will all be gone, forever.
If truly is our heart’s desire to be fully satisfied with the Lord Jesus, earthly pleasures will have no attraction for us, nothing world offers will captivate us or our affections. We will indeed love his appearing, be greeted by the words “Well done” when we finish our race.