You can open your Bible to Revelation 18. We’ll get to that chapter in just a moment or two. All throughout Scripture, God declares that there will be, at the end of human history, a great judgment.
In Job 21 and verse 30, the scripture says, “For the wicked is reserved for the day of calamity; they will be led forth at the day of fury.” Psalm 9, verses 7 and 8, says, “But the Lord abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, and He will judge the world.” Psalm 96:13 says of God, “He comes to judge the earth.” Isaiah 59:18 says, “According to their deeds, so He will repay: wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies.”
In Acts 17 and verse 31, it says that God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world. And that terrifying passage in 2 Thessalonians chapter 1, where it says God is going to repay those who afflict believers “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution” – or punishment – “to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
In 2 Peter 2:9, it says, “The Lord knows how to reserve the ungodly” – He knows how to hold them, as it were, in reserve; He knows how to bring them to the fullness of judgment.
Nowhere in the Bible is it more clearly revealed that God is going to judge the world than in the book of Revelation. And we come to just one chapter among the 22 chapters of the book of Revelation, so let me just give you a brief overview. The first chapter introduces the Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful vision in relationship to His church.
Chapters 2 and 3 are letters addressed to the church. We would call that part present tense emphasis. It shows the ministry of Christ in His church presently. In chapters 4 and 5, we are transported to heaven, and we see the war machine beginning to set itself in motion as judgment is being prepared in heaven.
In chapters 4 and 5, the angels and the glorified saints are gathered around the throne of God, and they are watching God begin to move toward judgment. Then the judgment breaks loose in chapter 6 and runs all the way through chapter 19. At the end of chapter 19, Christ returns. In chapter 20, He sets up His earthly kingdom. And then in chapters 21 and 22 is established the new heaven and the new earth, which is the eternal heaven where we will dwell with Him forever.
So, the book of Revelation, from chapter 4 on, is looking at the future, and it is primarily a future that is terrifying as judgment is poured out on this world that runs descriptively from chapter 6 right on through to chapter 19. In our study, we are looking at just one emphasis on that judgment here in chapter 18, and that is God’s judgment which will fall, in the end, on the world economic system.
We are endeavoring, as we go through the book of Revelation – any student of Revelation is endeavoring to understand the profound and powerful imagery of this judgment. Some of the details, admittedly, are hard to understand. They are mysterious to us. They are somewhat obscure to us, as many of the prophecies were to the Old Testament writers who wrote of prophecies to come in the future. There will always be some mystery when one attempts to look into the future, even with the clarity of prophetic literature we can’t understand everything that will unfold. There are images that we have to wait to see the fulfillment of.
But there is one thing that is crystal clear in the book of Revelation, and that is that horrifying, terrifying judgment is coming in the future. There will be a terrible, final judgment of sinners on the earth before the return of Jesus Christ. In fact, this judgment will stretch over a seven-year period and be most intense for the last three-and-a-half years of that seven-year period. That is called the seventieth week of Daniel back in the prophet Daniel. It is identified, in the book of Revelation, a number of times as a period of 42 months, a period designated particularly as 3-1/2 years of fierce judgment. There will be seven years of judgment, but it’s more fierce in the latter half.
So, what is coming on the world is a prolonged judgment. That is not only God’s wrath being poured out, but it is His mercy being extended as well, because during that seven years of escalating judgment, where the fury intensifies and intensifies the further you move through the seven years, at the same time there will be continual proclamation of the gospel. It will come from 144,000 Jews who will be chosen to do just that. It will come from two witnesses who remarkably will proclaim the message of salvation to the world, be killed and rise from the dead in full view of the whole world no doubt watching it on television. It will also come from an angel who will fly through the skies, the book of Revelation says, and proclaim the gospel from the heavens for the whole world to see and hear.
So, it will be a time of judgment – and judgment in an escalating fashion. At the same time, there will be the proclamation of the gospel. So, while men are beginning to get a feel for what eternal judgment is like and beginning to experience the wrath of God, they will be hearing the gospel and should, by all normal responses, be driven to the salvation that is offered them and rescued from the terrors that are falling upon them, but, in fact, they become hard and obstinate.
There is, of course, a salvation that is going to sweep through the world, people of every tongue and tribe and nation will be saved, and the nation Israel be purged and then saved. So, there will be, perhaps, the greatest number of people ever converted, in a short period of time, during that time of tribulation, but the world, for the most part, will reject the message of salvation. And instead of responding to God in penitence and repentance, they curse God in the midst of their suffering.
Now, one of the things that is going to take place during that sweeping judgment toward the end is the demolition, if you will, or the destruction of the world economic system. And that’s what we’re looking at in Revelation chapter 18.
The reason I’ve chosen to address this is because there is so much concern about where is the world going economically. It isn’t very long ago – in fact, certainly in my lifetime – when there were many economies in the world. In fact, just about every nation had its own economy. And how an economy went in a given nation had very little impact on the rest of the world.
Now we have a one-world economy. It has been exploding into that over the last 25 years or so, and even more rapidly in just the last handful of years. We now know that what happens in the third world country like Russia has immediate impact on the economics of the United States. What happens in the Pacific Rim, in an Asian country, has immediate impact on the United States. What happens, surely down the road, in the Middle East, certainly with the oil, has an immediate impact on the United States, as we are all inextricably wound together in this one-world economy.
Of course, we were driven into a world economy by materialism. We wanted to get richer and richer and richer, and there are only so many consumers in the United States. And if you want to get more and more and more money, we have to go outside the United States and create world markets. And that’s what we did.
The Japanese, in rebuilding Japan, knew that in order to bring in everything they wanted in that nation, they had to be developing a world market. And so, this press toward materialism has thrust nations outside their boundaries and it’s created a web of economies all coming together in one world economy.
Certainly, in the book of Revelation, we read about a one-world ruler, and we can now understand how one person could literally rule the world. As we move closer and closer to a fully-defined one-world economy, it is clear to us that one person can have incredible and immense power. That’s what’s going to happen. The Antichrist will literally rule the world, and he will be in charge of the world’s economy. He will make determinations as to who can buy or sell, and he will control business discourse cross the globe. But God will have the last word on this materialistic effort. And that’s what we find in chapter 18: the final crash of world economics. This is where it is all going, folks. This is where it is all going.
In this vision, John gets a look at the final world system. It is given the name Babylon. We saw last time that Babylon is a name associated with anti-God attitudes. All the way back to the Tower of Babel, where men attempted to design their own religion and build their own world enterprise as it were.
And God, of course, came down in judgment, changed all their languages so they couldn’t communicate with each other, and scattered them all over the world. God did all the separating, at that point, as an act of judgment to disperse them so they couldn’t have one great world government, one great world religion. God made that impossible.
But systematically and slowly over time, man has come back to Babel, as it were; he’s come back to inventing his one-world religion which is depicted in Revelation 17, and it shows the destruction of that by the Antichrist himself, who doesn’t want his economy to compete with religion. And so, ultimately he just absorbs that false religious system at the end of the age. And then you have all that’s left is chapter 18, this great anti-God, anti-Christ, materialistic/capitalistic world economy under the control of Antichrist. And it also is called Babylon because it represents all that is anti-God, all that man strives to be independent of God, all that he wants to achieve on his own.
Now, we saw, in the first three verses, judgment pronounced on this final world system. Another angel coming down from heaven – there are many such angels that deliver messages of judgment. He has great authority. The earth was illumined with his glory at the time. I told you last time the earth had been made dark by the judgment of God, and into the darkness comes a bright light, and all the world will look at that bright light, and they will realize that it is an angel having great authority. “He cries out with a mighty voice, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!’”
One of the remarkable things about this is that this comes toward the end of this time of tribulation. This comes at a time – at the very end, when judgment is fierce and frightening. It also comes after there has been some severe devastation on the earth – severe devastation.
For example, this final world economy has great dependence on the sea, but the sea has been devastated by this time. The judgments mentioned in chapter 8 would fall upon the sea. This world economy system is dependent on the land, and the land has also been devastated by prior judgments at this time. This economy is dependent upon air; it’s dependent upon light so that things can grow. And that, too, has been devastated by the darkness and the disorientation of heavenly bodies. And the alteration, of course, consequently of tides and things like that and the inundation and flooding of the earth.
And this world is also – this world economy is also dependent on manpower, labor force, but that, too, has been devastated. Way back in chapter 6, a fourth of the population of the earth has been destroyed, and more in chapter 9.
And so, though this world has been devastated in the sea, the fresh water, the land, the air, the heavenly bodies, and the manpower, still the genius of man, assisted by satanic demons, has been able to maintain a massive worldwide economy that is, to some degree, flourishing in its capitalism and its materialism. God is systematically dismantling man’s great power. It’s the end of man’s day. But it’s amazing how the ingenuity of man causes him to scramble and survive. And believe me, if man can do that, if he can come to the end of the Day of the Lord, in the book of Revelation, having suffered all of these judgments that are listed from chapter 6 on, and still survive with a world economy intact, I don’t think we have too much to fear about whether He can handle the Y2K problem in a few months.
Judgment is pronounced in the first three verses; judgment avoided in verses 4 and 5. We saw another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people” – any believers, any who have been saved during this time out of Israel or out of the Gentile nations, any of those people who are still a part of this world system, who may even be living in the city of Babylon – if, in fact, Babylon – the actual city – does become the capital of this world government, and it’s very possible that it could – anybody who’s associated with this system – “Come out that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues.”
It doesn’t mean you can’t have a job at that time; it doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the matters of life. But you want to stay away from the iniquities that are characteristic of the greed and the materialism of that time. And by the way, all the rest of the wickedness that goes on with it, all of the immorality and whatever else, all the sensuality and wealth that is mentioned in verse 3. Make sure that you’re not a part of any of that so that you do not receive the plagues. You want to avoid the judgments by not being a part of that.
“For her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” Judgment is coming, and you better separate yourself from that. Those of you who belong to the Lord, those of you who belong to Him need to disassociate yourselves with that lest you get caught up in the plagues that are going to come upon that system. Come out of her. Get out before you get caught in the wrath that falls. Sort of like God’s warning – isn’t it? – to Lot and his family before the judgment fell on Sodom and Gomorrah.
Not to get separated is to get caught in the judgment that will fall. Don’t be involved with that system in any way. Don’t imbibe the spirit of Babylon or you may fall victim to the plagues that come. The plagues may mean, by the way, the full load of final bowl judgments. The bowl judgments. The reason I say it may mean that is because in chapter 15, where the bold bowl – B-O-W-L – judgments are referred to, they are called plagues. Chapter 15, verse 1, here comes the seven angels with seven plagues. And then the seven bowls are those seven plagues. And at the end of the chapter, in verse 8, it talks about the seven plagues of the seven angels being finished.
So, it may well be that the seven bowls are the final rapid-fire plagues that come in a very, very short amount of time at the end of the time of the tribulation, the end of the great tribulation, the end of the Day of the Lord. They are the rapid-fire plagues that come, and it may be those very plagues that constitute the final destruction of this world economic system described here in chapter 18.
So, this is a clear call for the Lord’s people to do what they’ve always been called to do through all of history, and that is to separate themselves from the evil world system which is to be destroyed. Don’t be seduced by the world system in any age, and especially not in the last days. Wherever, however, there is idolatry, wherever there is prostitution, wherever there is self-glorification, wherever there is pride, wherever there is complacency toward God, wherever there is reliance on wealth, wherever there is indulgence in pleasure, wherever there is aimless and purposeless violence, there is Babylon, and God will judge. But we’re talking here about a final manifestation of that across the face of the earth. And believers have all been – always been called to separate from that. And should any be engaged at all in this, they need to separate themselves immediately.
Verse 5 says, “For her sins have piled up as high as heaven. Literally, there welded and glued together like the Tower of Babel. They’re piled up just like that original ziggurat, that original tower which didn’t reach as high as heaven then, but the sins of those in the end of the age do reach as high as heaven, “and God has remembered her iniquities.” God knows every sin, remembers every single one of them.
Back in chapter 16, verse 19, “Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.” His fierce wrath. Of God’s own, of us who believe, He says, “I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more,” Jeremiah 31:34. That’s a new covenant promise, “I will remember their sin no more.” But God will remember the iniquities of those who reject Him; for unrepentant, unchanging, unbelieving Babylon there will be the remembrance of their sins.
So, a worldwide economic boom is going to exist in the end of the age, centered perhaps in a capital city of ancient Babylon which, of course, as I mentioned last time, has already been rebuilt. But Babylon, more than identifying the city, defines a one-world economy covering the globe, basically driven by greed. Driven by greed. Greed is what drives materialism. You hate to admit it, but it does. Built on lust for luxury, capitalism will reach its apex under Satan and under the Antichrist. But God will come in judgment against it. The judgment, then, is defined.
The third feature here, the judgment, is defined in verses 6 through 8. Let’s look at what it says, verse 6, “Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her” – “her” meaning Babylon, the final world system – “and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.” Here is judgment defined, judgment described. “Pay her back.”
This is a call for God to judge; that’s what it is. And the angels are joining the call. Earlier in the book of Revelation, the saints are calling to God to judge, “Judge, O God, judge this iniquitous world, vindicate Yourself.” And now the angels join the call. The same angel in verse 4, the other voice from heaven who says, “Come out of her,” says, “Pay her back.” And now the holy angels are joining the chorus. This is an echo, if you will, of the Old Testament law of retaliation called lex talionis. The Old Testament law of retaliation we know as “an eye for an eye, and” – what? – “a tooth for a tooth.” It was the law of retaliation. It is recorded all through the Old Testament and even repeated in the New Testament. And now they’re saying, “Give her back what she’s due, God; do what is just and do what is fair, and do what is right.”
The psalmist often prayed for the destruction of his enemies and the destruction of the enemies of God and the destruction of the enemies of righteousness. And though we are to be kind to our enemies, we are to love our enemies, we are to never repay evil for evil to our enemies, this does not eliminate God’s final vindication of Himself, His holiness, His righteousness, and His own. “Vengeance is mine,” Romans 12 says. “I will repay says the Lord.” We know He’s going to do that, and we have every right to affirm that in our prayers.
“Give back to her,” says the voice from heaven, “double according to her deeds.” Literally in the Greek it says “double the double things.” This is too late for repentance now. This is a call for judicial justice to fall immediately. “Double” simply means full, complete. It is equal to full. You see that in a number of Old Testament passages in Exodus and Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. They use “double” to refer to the full judgment. Bring a punishment that is full to fit the crimes in full. That’s the idea.
Jeremiah – just one scripture to show you this – Jeremiah 16:18, “And I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations.”
“I will doubly repay,” He says, meaning, “I will fully repay them.” And then this added statement, “In the cup that she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.” And again, that just expresses the same thing. God deals in full measure. He is willing to bless abundantly, and believe me, He will judge abundantly. He blesses – the psalmist says, “My cup runs over.”
Jesus says, “You will receive from God pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” God blesses abundantly, and He judges abundantly.
As the Lord gives double measure of blessing, so He gives double measure of wrath. And sinners, according to Romans 2:5, are storing up wrath against the day of wrath. They’re just accumulating and accumulating and accumulating and accumulating until the righteous judgment of God breaks forth in double fury.
Verse 7 adds, “To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says” – speaking of Babylon again – “in her heart, ‘I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.’” To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the degree that the people of the world live deliciously, luxuriously, willfully, engaging in headstrong, self-fulfilling sin, in the same degree give punishment. “She glorified herself,” it says. She said, “I’m a queen.” She lives sensuously, fulfilling every fleshly gratification characterized by pride. “I’m a queen by lust, living sensuously and gratifying everything.” Because of pride and lust, bring torment and mourning upon her. To the same degree, give her torment and mourning, for she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen, and I’m not a widow, and will never see mourning.” Self-sufficient, invincible – that’s what this system says.
That’s what people say in their hearts, “I’m invincible.” Proudly, lustfully they pursue all their personal fulfillment, given over to self-exaltation, self-promotion, lusting for every sensual desire, arrogantly self-sufficient, thinking they sit in some royal place. “Not a widow” – that is to say they are not suffering; they’re not destitute; they’re not mourning; they’re not weeping. A feeling of invincibility, a boast. “For this reason” – for this reason, verse 8 says; for this pride and this self-sufficiency, and this sensuality – “in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong.”
In one day. This is not progressive. It doesn’t necessarily limit to a 24-hour day, but in one great moment of eschatological history, in one final explosion, rapid-fire judgment will fall. And I said before that tends to make me think as well of the bowl judgments which are saucers. And what’s poured out doesn’t come out slowly out a spout, it’s just dumped. And the bowl judgments in that short – the fifteenth chapter just dumped out in a final devastation of judgment.
Daniel 5 says that Babylon of old fell literally in one day. In the very hour – you remember the handwriting on the wall MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN, you’re weighed in the balances and found wanting? – in one day, before morning, the city was in the hands of the enemy, and Babylon had fallen in the night. In one day, from night to morning, and Babylon had fallen. Sudden destruction will come. Sudden.
The end of verse 10 again emphasizing the fast character of this, the sudden – at the end of verse 10, “In one hour your judgment has come.”
Verse 16 says this, “Woe, woe, the great city.” Down in verse 19, “Woe, woe, the great city” – end of the verse – “for in one hour she has been laid waste.” Hour, day, whatever you want to say, it means a very brief period of time. The plagues will come, and this includes, as I mentioned to you, the plagues of 16 that follow through on these 7, 15 and 16 being the bowl judgments. This must include this final destruction.
It is described, in verse 8, as “pestilence and mourning and famine.” Pestilence and famine, no doubt, produce the mourning, and certainly the bowl judgments will produce these definitely.
But there will also be special judgments beyond maybe those bowl judgments. We don’t want to limit to that. There will be what is described here as her plagues, perhaps some special judgments even added to the horrors of the descriptions in verse – of chapter 15 and 16. Further, “She will be burned with fire” – consumed, burned up completely. This will be a very sudden, swift, incineration, like Pompeii, like Sodom and Gomorrah. And the source? “For the Lord God who judges her is strong.”
The system of Antichrist may be strong; the Lord is stronger. No matter how powerful Antichrist is, no matter how well-conceived and defended His worldwide system is, no matter how the forces of hell and earth, demons and men have armed themselves, they are no match for the power of God. He is strong, and He comes as judge.
So, judgment is pronounced, and then judgment is to be avoided in verses 4 and 5, and then judgment is defined in verses 6 to 8.
Now, the bulk of the chapter starts in verse 9, and it gives us a definition of the nature of this final world economy. This is judgment lamented. Judgment lamented. As this judgment starts to fall - and it comes rapidly – there is lament going on. There are three groups that are involved in this lament as we will see.
The first one is introduced in verse 9, “And the kings of the earth” – this is the first group singled out, the world leaders; kings meaning the world leaders – “who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her” – this is not speaking necessarily of some physical immorality with a harlot or a prostitute; this is talking about illicit, immoral engagement with Antichrist’s world system. Those leaders who got swept up with Antichrist, those leaders who became part of the whole movement, those leaders who rose to positions of power and authority in the world and were loving every minute of it, having all their sensual desires fulfilled, pursuing all their materialistic ends, who had been exalted and became proud and self-sufficient and boastful – those leaders who lived sensuously will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning.
When the devastation comes and the fire comes, they’re going to see the destruction of everything they have hoped for. When the burning comes, when the – perhaps it even starts at the city of Babylon, that revived capital city of Antichrist’s world government. Interesting to think about the fact, but that is located in what was once the region of the Garden of Eden, the very center of the world, where God began His creation and where He may bring His final devastation.
As the capital of Antichrist’s world government receives a fatal blow to the head, the brains, the control center of the world economy, the great leaders who make it all happen realize that it’s all coming down around their heads. The kings who committed acts of immorality and live sensuously with this Antichrist system are also referred to back in verse 3, “The kings of the earth who committed acts of immorality.” They’re mentioned in verse 3; they’re mentioned back in chapter 17, verse 2, “The kings of the earth again committed acts of immorality.”
In other words, rather than acknowledging the true God, they prostituted themselves to the Antichrist and his system. All their passions are tied to Babylon. They’ve bought into the world economy.
And so, when it burns, they go down with it. “And they will weep” – sobbing literally in the Greek – “they will sob and lament” – that’s a term that has to do with pounding your chest as they see it come down, like the whores of Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Edom, other judgments of God in the past, they’re going to see the beginning of the end.
Verse 10 says, “Standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the great city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’”
Again, this seems to indicate that it may well be that this judgment hits initially on the very city which is the core, the center. It might even be the computer center of this whole world economy. And the city burns before the final destruction of everything comes. And they’re away from it. They’re leaders scattered all over the world, working for this one-world government under Antichrist and they see it going down in flames. How could they do that? How could they all see across the world? Television. Armies could even be on their way to Armageddon. These world leaders realize, however, that it’s all coming down, and they say, “Woe, woe, the great city Babylon, the strong city! In one hour your judgment has come.”
Not only do the leaders realize that everything’s coming down, and they’re going to lose everything they’ve worked so hard to gain. But secondly, the businessmen, verse 11. These would be the people who are making money off of the system. They’re not getting as wealthy as the leaders are, but these are the merchants; these are the buyers and sellers; these are the businessmen; these are the stockbrokers, these are those who handle the money.
“All the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore.” This indicates that there is some time – it is a rapid-fire judgment, but there’s enough time – it may take place over a framework weeks or a few months, and it grinds down very rapidly. And they weep and mourn purely on a monetary level. They don’t weep and mourn over their sin; they don’t weep and mourn because they’ve been confronted about their evil deeds. They weep and mourn because they’re losing money.
And then John lists 28 categories of goods. Twenty-eight categories of goods. We can just comment on a few. Cargoes of gold” – and this gives you kind of a feel for what the world economy will look like. It’ll be – it’ll involve everything: gold and silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen” – actually, it could refer to costly Egyptian cotton which even today, if you go into a store to buy a prime piece of cotton, a garment made out of cotton, the premier cotton in the world is Egyptian cotton – “purple and silk” – silk in ancient times was so expensive – in fact, in the Roman time, it was banned by Tiberius because it was so expensive – “scarlet, every kind of citron wood” – there’s a North African citron wood that was, in ancient times, valued for its magnificent color, and it was used for costly furniture, to be built for the wealthy. And it just symbolizes the wealth of fancy furnishings and furniture – “every article of ivory, every article made of very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble” – which are still today – all of those things still exist today and will at the end of the age – “cinnamon” – this would have to do with flavors” – “and spices and incense and perfume” – what would the world do without perfume? – “frankincense” – all those wonderful-smelling candles that they distribute all over the place” – “wine and olive oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, chariots” – probably in those – in that coming time cars – “slaves, human lives.” All of it. They weep; there’s no market for it anymore; you can’t sell it anymore. Fragrant plants used for perfume under the term “spice” used also – made from seeds, by the way, of an eastern shrub in India and Africa were also used to put into the hair. Frankincense was a gum rosin used as a fragrance in Southern Arabia. Chariots – literally the word means a four-wheel wagon. The workforce – nobody wants to hire any, and nobody will work. Business comes grinding to a halt.
Perhaps there’s a great, great business center going on in Babylon. Perhaps this speaks of just one large segment of the world economy, feeling the first wave of judgment. It’s interesting to note the union, I think, of merchants and kings in wailing over the destruction of Babylon. In ancient times, frankly, government and business were not united as they are now.
If you do a little study of history, just remind yourself kings ruled apart – kings were – they lived in another world altogether, apart from the bourgeois who carried on the business of the world. Business and government were separate. Merchants were little nobodies, and kings were in a completely different level of life. But the French revolution changed all that, brought government and business together, and now they’re absolutely inseparable. And business and government, as far as we know it, you can’t even find the separating line. You make a lot of money in your business, and the government will surely take half of it. They’re all wailing; they’re all together in this final system. The government and the economy of the world is all one. We will have a world economy run by a world government. And we’re moving that direction. Government is absorbing more and more and more and more of private enterprise. And they will weep over the loss of their luxuries.
And verse 14 says, “And the fruit you long for has gone from you” – fruit meaning your possessions, your luxuries, your wealth, everything you lusted for; it’s all gone. The whole system is bankrupt. It may well be that at that time the central computer system is struck, if such a thing exists, and everything is indeed lost. “And all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you, and men will no longer find them.” As the judgments come, as they get poured out in further devastation as the days and weeks go by, everything is lost.
This, by the way, just a little footnote here, is the beginning of hell. When you think about hell, what do you think of? Do you think of the torment of lusting and never possessing? Lusting but never being satisfied? That’s hell. Lusting but never being fulfilled forever? People in hell aren’t going to long for righteousness. People in hell aren’t going to long for godliness; they’re not going to long for virtue; they’re not going to long for blessing. They’re going to lust for the same things they lust for here without ever being fulfilled. And that’s what you begin to see here. They’ll lust for it, but it won’t be there.
Verse 15, “The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning. They’re going to try to distance themselves, maybe try to protect themselves. And they’ll start weeping, and they’ll never stop forever, because soon after this Christ will come and destroy all the ungodly, and they will be cast into the lake of fire to weep and wail and gnash their teeth forever. And they weep, and they wail, and gnash their teeth – not because they want to go to heaven, but because they want their lusts fulfilled and they never will be. Never. Never.
And just like the kings, verse 16, the merchants say, “Woe, woe” – verse 16 – “the great city, who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!” It’s all come down, woe, woe.
There’s a third group. Not just the leaders and not just the merchants and the people who have the money, but the salesmen and the distributors are mentioned as group three. Verse 17, I n the middle of the verse, “Every shipmaster, every passenger, every sailor” – all those traveling salesmen, all those people who run the transportation industry, everybody engaged in sales and distribution, all those who sell and distribute the goods, as many as make their living by the sea stood at a distance. Again, they’re trying to avoid the initial flurry of judgment. “And they’re crying out” - verse 18 – “as they look at the smoke of the burning of the city, and they say, ‘What city is like the great city?’” Bottom line, what they’re saying, “If this city can’t survive, nothing can.” This is the strongest city. This judgment starts at some point, and they see that. As I said, it could be in a rebuilt Babylon; it could be in whatever is that Babylon-like, rebuilt capital city of the Antichrist world system, and as it goes down, and they recognize that that is the very hub of the whole system, the strongest of all cities, “what city is like this great city” simply means, “If this city can’t stand, nothing can.”
And then, in a typical, ancient expression of grief, John sees these mourners do what many had done in times of grief. Look at verse 19, “They threw dust on their heads” - you might still find mourning Jews doing that today in Israel or even Arabs throwing dirt on their heads – “and crying out, weeping and mourning, and saying” – the same thing the other group said – “‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’” They all see it. The world sees it. And whether you’re a leader – a world leader – or whether you’re involved on the upper echelons of the business world, or whether you’re just the little guy who’s a sailor, or a shipper, or a distributor, or a salesperson, or whatever you are, you’re going to see it. Universal pain and grief, but notice there’s no repentance. There’s, “Woe is Babylon.” There’s no, “Woe is me.” All their hopes, all their dreams were built on Antichrist’s system. And they thought it could endure, and they thought it was stronger than God, and it isn’t.
Then comes a rather striking contrast: judgment enjoyed. Judgment enjoyed. Verse 20; this is strange to some people. What’s the first word of verse 20? “Rejoice.” Isn’t that remarkable? “Rejoice over her, O heavens, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”
It was the saints and the apostles and the prophets that were pleading with God to bring about an end to sin; to bring about an end to man’s horrible day; to bring about an end to the unrighteousness, the injustice, the persecution; to bring about an end to those who dishonored God and refused to glory Him; to come and pronounce just and righteous judgment.
God says, “Now you can rejoice.” “O heaven” – who’s that? well, all the angels – “and you saints” – you saints, you that are already in glory, meaning the church, the already raptured church, meaning tribulation saints saved during the tribulation, martyred and carried to glory – “you apostles, you prophets, you missionaries, you preachers” – all of you, here is your vindication. Here is God’s vengeance. You can rejoice. There is not a – there is not a glee over the damnation of the ungodly. “I find no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” God said Himself. And John himself said this whole thing was bitter in his mouth, though sweet in his heart, because he understood the vindication of God and the glory of God, and he hated to see God dishonored, and so do we.
So, judgment pronounced, avoided, defined, lamented, enjoyed, and number six, judgment completed. Judgment completed. Verse 21, “And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone, threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.’” It won’t be found any longer. This is a graphic object lesson. It’s just going to be thrown down like a great millstone thrown into the sea. It’s going to disappear into the blackness.
If we had time, we could look at Jeremiah 51, verses 61 to 64, where Seraiah, a prince who accompanied Zedekiah into Babylon, is told, after reading Jeremiah’s prophecies, to take a stone and throw it into the Euphrates River. And when he threw it into the Euphrates River, he was to say, “Thus shall Babylon sink and shall not rise from the evil I will bring upon her.” That was the ancient Babylon that sank into darkness and oblivion.
So here – so here the same imagery taken from Jeremiah, the final destruction of this world system will be like a millstone disappearing into the sea. And there’s no hole in the water as it sinks into the blackness, never to be seen again.
“Thus” – it says – “will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence and not found any longer.” And when the angel makes that announcement, watch what happens. Verse 22, “The sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer.” Can you imagine a world without music? In the final end of man’s day, no music. “No commerce, no industry” – no food therefore and no songs. People won’t want to be entertained. Nobody will want to play. There won’t be any heart to play a harp. There won’t be any motivation to play a flute, to play a trumpet, to make music.
“No craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer” – nobody’s going to make anything, nobody’s going to show up at the auto plant, nobody’s going to show up at the mill, nobody’s going to show up in the assembly line – “the sound of a mill isn’t even going to be heard in you any longer” - the factories will all be grow silent - “and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer” – no lights anymore.
“The voice of the bridegroom and the bride will not be heard in you any longer” – no happiness; nobody’s going to get married; there aren’t going to be any weddings in those last terrible, terrifying weeks. And, you see, a wedding sort of symbolizes the pinnacle of human joy. There won’t be any joy. No music, no marriages, no candles, no lighting. “For our merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by our sorcery.” Babylon literally seduces the world under the control of Satan and Antichrist. And the merchants were in charge of everything, and everybody bowed to the capitalism, and everybody will bow to the materialism. And when it comes down, there’s nothing left. No joys, no nothing.
Why such total destruction? The judgment is justified. That’s the last point. It’s justified because in verse 24, “In Babylon was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who had been slain on the earth.” The deceived world, the God-rejecting world, the Christ-rejecting world, the Antichrist-following world, the system that corrupted leaders of the world, the system that deceived the people is also the system that will murder the saints. The system that will murder the saints.
In chapter 19, verse 2, it says that “God will bring judgment on the great harlot Babylon, and He will avenge the blood of His bondservants on her.” This wicked world system will kill the saints. It will massacre the saints in a wholesale fashion at the end of the age, believers will be slaughtered. In chapter 17, verse 6, it says that this woman, this Babylon the great, the religious form of that world empire “was drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.”
The false religious system will martyr true believers. The false world government of Antichrist will slaughter true believers, and that is the final straw as it were. And because she has on her the blood of prophets and saints and all who have been slain in the earth, the Lord will bring vengeance. This is where the world’s going. This is exactly where it’s going. This is the final crash. How far is it from now? I don’t know. God knows; I don’t know.
But I do know we have a world economy. And I do know we have television for everybody to see these events. And I do know that if the Lord allows for this to be set up in the city of Babylon, Babylon has been rebuilt by the Iraqis, and it is, by the way, now known as a bridal city. I do know that the world is looking for somebody who can preserve its world economy and bring prosperity to all. I do know the world has scientific capabilities like it’s never had so that it could stay productive even under terrifying, world-altering judgments such as occur in the book of Revelation. I don’t know of anything that exists in our world that would disallow this from happening in our lifetime. It could happen.
And this whole attitude is what Jesus was talking about in Luke 12 when He said in a parable, “The land of a certain rich man was very productive, and he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do since I have no place to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I’ll store all my grain and my goods, and I’ll say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come. Take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘
“But God said to him, ‘You fool, this very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Jesus warned everybody, “Don’t ever put your faith in your treasure.” This can happen. It can happen soon. It’s my personal conviction that the Lord will rescue His redeemed church before this happens. Then will come the tribulation. But during the tribulation, many will be converted, and they will be the saints who will experience that horrifying reality and by God’s mercy will be delivered from it, but may see it – will see it; that’s why they’re warned not to associate with it.
But there will be many, perhaps, if this is to happen in our lifetime – and only the Lord knows – many that you know all around you, some here tonight who may live until this occurs. And that’s why we are warned. But, even if you don’t live till this occurs, if you die without Christ, the results are the same: eternal remorse. Not remorse because you want Christ, but remorse because you lust, and you desire, and you will forever and never be fulfilled. And that’s what causes the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And you’ll have an accusing conscience that never relents. Frightening prospects and sufficient warning to drive any person to Christ. Let’s pray.
Our Father, we read a passage like this and are overwhelmed by it. And we thank You that You’ve given it to us, that we might be sufficiently warned. You are a faithful God. As You always provided amble warning for Your people, so You have provided for us, and we don’t need to live into these terrible times; we don’t need to feel the fury of Your terrifying vengeance and judgment on the final form of world government. We can be delivered from it all by Your grace if we come to Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord as we heard tonight in the testimonies of those who were baptized.
Now we pray for those, Father, around us, who are headed for this. We know the world is headed for this. Help us to be wise and not to lay up treasure on earth. It will all be burned. Help us to put our treasure in heaven and to trust You. Help us, Lord, to warn those around us of what is coming, that they, with us, may be kept from this hour of judgment which comes upon the earth, delivered from the wrath which is eternal, and even this wrath which is temporal.
Thank You, Father, for the grace that causes us to rejoice, that You remember our sins no more. They’ve been paid for in Christ and forgotten, as it were, forever.
Thank You, Lord, for this great text and great truth, and we’re responsible now to pass it on and to live lives of deep gratitude for the deliverance that is ours in Christ from Your wrath, both temporal and eternal. We praise You and thank You in Christ’s name, Amen.
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