Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Understanding the Book of Revelation: Babylon is Fallen

                     Now we will delve into Chapter 18: the Fall of Babylon.

                In verse 1 the angel has great authority delegated to him by God, just as Satan gave beast great authority. The angel is going to announce the fall of the great city which is the city of the beast. The earth was illuminated by his splendor which comes from the glory of God when the angel was in God's presence in heaven. Just as Moses face shone with the glory of God after he had been in God's presence. The angel is similar in description to that in Ezekiel 43:1-2 in which the land was radiant with God's glory. The glory of the angel is appropriate to the greatness of his announcement and his authority to proclaim the word of God concerning the demise of Babylon. After her destruction she will be deserted, this is enlarged upon by the angel in 18:21-24. She is already inhabited by unclean spirits who provoke men into unclean acts. After man is no longer there the demons move around seeking rest (Luke 11:24).

                In verse 3 the angel gives the reasons for her destruction. She seduced the nations, kings and merchants to be unfaithful to God. The kings join in with her in her sins against God; they also share in her power and luxury. The merchants also get rich from her desire for greater and greater luxury. We see this now in the world: the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. What is condemned here is excessive luxury. The merchants will lament the loss of their profitable trade.

Verse 4 is clearly a warning to the saints. There are two meanings here: first to come out meaning to be separate from her in her sins and secondly to flee from her in order to avoid her judgment. Just as Lot fled Sodom before its destruction (Genesis  19:12 .); the Israelites fled Egypt; God's people fled Babylon (Jeremiah 51:45); and the early church fled Jerusalem to avoid persecution before her destruction; so God's people are told to leave Babylon before her destruction comes upon her. This is a personal command of God. This has an echo throughout scripture starting with Abraham who was told to leave his own country (Genesis 12:1). He was looking forward to a better country, a heavenly one, and God has prepared a city for him (Hebrews 11:8-16). This finds its fulfillment with the heavenly Jerusalem later in Revelation. It finds an echo in 2 Corinthians 6:16 in which God's people are called out, that is they are to be a holy people separate from the world and its sin. Note that the word church in the New Testament is ekklesia meaning an Assembly of God's called out ones. This should be read with the warnings to the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira in mind.

                In verse 6, we see that Babylon’s sins are piled up to Heaven, just as the tower of Babel was to be built to reach the Heavens. These people have not truly repented so therefore He remembers all of their sins. Double recompense, as seen in verse 6, was required according to Levitical law (Exodus 24:4, 7, 9). Here, it’s double for her double. She is just like the church in Laodicea. In Laodicea, they claimed they were rich and did not need anything. In verse 7, Rome claims to be queen and boast that they will not see sorrow. In verse 8 we are told that the judgment on Babylon will be sudden. In verse 7 she said that she will see no sorrow but on the day of judgment she will be filled with sorrow. She glorified herself but now she will see famine. She sat in luxury but now famine comes to her.

                The kings mourn their loss of power and luxury; the merchants and seamen mourn their loss of wealth through trading in the things of the world. Notice the merchants carry out their trade over the land while the seamen carry out their trade by the sea, thus covering the whole world. Jesus warns us that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. They are terrified because their security is gone; they know they are next because they committed adultery with her. They had committed adultery with her and were thus united to her in her fate. Their sorrow is worldly sorrow not godly sorrow which leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10), their sorrow is totally self-centered. The merchants lose out on seven categories of trade:

-          ornaments
-          clothing
-          furniture/decorations
-          spices
-          food
-          transportation
-          employment

                The fruit they longed for are the things that are previously mentioned.

                In contrast to the mourning of the kings, merchants and sea captains those in heaven and God's people in heaven are called to rejoice over her because God has judged her for the way she treated the saints while they were on earth. God has paid them back for what they had done to his believers.

                Note the six fold repetition of never indicating the compete destruction of Babylon:
-          Babylon never to be found again.
-          The music of.... never to be heard in you again
-          no workman... will ever be found in you again.
-          The sound of the millstone will never be heard in you again
-          The light of a lamp will never shine in you again.
-          The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again

                The event in verse 21 is based on the scroll upon which Jeremiah had written all the disasters that would come upon Babylon, the staff officer Seraiah was to read it and tie it to a stone and throw it into the Euphrates, and say “So Babylon will sink to rise no more because of the disaster I will bring upon her. And her people will fall” (Jeremiah 51:60-64).  This should also remind us that Jesus said:

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have
a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

-Matthew 18:6

                She persecuted the saints and got her just retribution. She is not just a persecutor but is responsible for the blood of all those killed on the earth. She is much more than just the apostate church. She represents that lust for power and wealth that causes nations to go to war for. She reigns over the kings of the earth and she is therefore, in her greed, responsible for all wars.

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