Friday, July 01, 2016

Blessings in Christ from Ephesians 1:3-6



These blessings all come in Christ.  God blesses us “in Christ”.  God has chosen to extend his blessings to the world through Christ.  Only those who are united with Christ receive them. 

These are spiritual blessings.  Paul says God “blesses us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  I think what he means by “spiritual blessings” are in contrast to “material blessings”.  This new kingdom is spiritual. 
   
These spiritual blessings are in contrast to many of the promise of material blessings in the Old Testament.  For example, look at Deuteronomy 28:11.  If Old Testament Israel obeyed God and kept his covenant, he would make their crops and livestock increase.  God does not promise the church its members’ salaries will increase or their cars will multiply.  That is why prosperity preachers tend to quote Old Testament promises to Israel to say believers will receive wealth and health if they believe and give.

These blessings come in the “heavenly places” according to the ESV, or the “heavenly realms” in the NIV.  I take this to again mean the spiritual realm.  This phrase appears 5 times in Ephesians.  Christ ascended to the heavenly realm.  Later on, in verse 20, Paul speaks of Christ raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places.  Psalm 110:1 starts it off with a prophecy that the Lord would do this.  Jesus, in Matthew 22:44, applied Psalm 110  to himself.  Several other New Testament verses speak of this. 

In Ephesians 2:6, Paul said God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly places in Christ.  So, even though we live here in this physical realm in our mortal bodies, in Christ we enter into spiritual life and blessings of God.      

Sunday, June 26, 2016

THE RIDER ON A WHITE HORSE - REVELATION 19:11-21

Rider On A White Horse
19:11-16

This passage shows Jesus at the end of this age, returning in victory. It is an event witnessed by the whole earth as “heaven opened”. First, John noticed the white horse. White is the color of victory. For example, Jesus previously said “to the one who conquers.. I will give a white stone…” (2:17)

This image may come from Roman history, as conquering generals would parade through Rome on a white horse or a chariot drawn by white horses.



On this horse is one called “Faithful and True”. The rider is Jesus. Faithful and true are titles given to him, representing his character. In 1:5, John called Jesus “the faithful witness”. Jesus called himself truth. He said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. (John 14:6)

He is not coming to save at this point, but to judge. Of his first coming Jesus said “for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him”. (John 3:17) But his second coming is one of judgment. John said he judges in righteousness. Jesus will judge, not arbitrarily, but according to the standards he has set forth in his word. That is judging righteously. In verse 12, his judgment is shown by his eyes like a flame of fire. Fire symbolizes judgment.

Jesus also comes the second time to defeat his enemies. It is part of judgment. John wrote he “makes war”. Those who oppose him have gathered to make war on him, but he has come to make war on them and bring them to judgment. We will see two pictures of this. First, we will see the war from the perspective of the defeat of the people who have the mark of the Beast, and the two Beasts: the Beast from the sea and the Beast from the land, or the false prophet. This is shown in 19:11-21. Later we will see the war from the perspective of the defeat of the dragon, or Satan in 20:7-10.

Jesus will also return as a king. On his head were many diadems, or crowns. (19:12) When Jesus ascended to heaven, he was enthroned at the right hand of the Father.  (Hebrews 1:3) He was to sit at the Father’s right hand until all his enemies were put at his feet. (Hebrews 1:13) He reign is forever. Hebrews 1:8 says “your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom”.

As king, he is sovereign. No one has power over him. He has a name no one knows but himself. (13) Maybe this is the name that the Father gave him that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. (Philippians 2:9-12) To know someone’s name was to have some power over them. So, although he has many known titles, he has a name no one can know to get power over him. Remember when Jacob wrestled the angel in Genesis 32? The angel knew Jacob’s name and even changed his name, showing his authority and power over Jacob. But when Jacob asked the angel’s name, the angel would not give it to him. The angel, likely the Lord, only asked why Jacob wanted to know. I think this implies that Jacob wanted to get on equal footing with the angel, to have something on him so to speak. But he would not allow it.

I think this also shows that no one can totally comprehend Jesus, as no one can totally comprehend God the Father. Much has been revealed to us. But we cannot fathom the depths of his knowledge, wisdom and understanding. He is God. We are not. Paul, who knew a lot more than most of us, wrote: “Oh, the depth of the reaches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are this judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Jesus came the first time as a servant. He was poor, he was meek. But, in his second coming, he does not appear as lowly Jesus, meek and mild. He will appear as the king, judge and warrior that he is.

Jesus will wear a robe dipped in blood. The blood is that of his enemies. Verse 15 says he will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. So, the picture is Jesus standing in a winepress stomping on grapes and crushing them. The winepress is God’s fury and wrath, the grapes are men and women who oppose God and the wine is their blood as they are crushed, destroying them and staining the robe of Jesus with the grape juice, which symbolizes their blood. This is the true grapes of wrath.

Jesus is called the Word of God. As he was the Word in the creation of the world, he is now the Word of God in its destruction. (13)

Jesus is not alone in this coming, either. The armies of heaven are with him. They are the saints. They are also victors, having endured suffering and conquered Satan by keeping the faith. They also ride white horses. They are pure, having been made righteous by Christ. This is shown by their clothes, which were fine linen, white and pure. (14) This is the clothing of the Bride, the church, as shown in verse 8.

It is not mentioned here, but Jesus will also be accompanied by an army of angels. 2 Thessalonians  1:7 speaks of God’s vindication of the saints when “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

Jesus began the defeat of Satan when he died on the cross. Colossians 2:15 says that Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them on the cross. Jesus will compete his victory and Satan’s defeat with this second coming. He strikes down the people Satan, through the Beast, has rallied against Jesus. From commoners to kings they are defeated and destroyed. These are the nations of verse 15.  

There is no real battle of Armageddon. Jesus will destroy them with a word. This is the sharp sword which ones from his mouth and strikes down the nations. (15) We also saw that sword in the opening vision of Christ, the Son of Man. (1:16) This was prophesied by Isaiah, who wrote “he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked”. (Is. 11:4)

There is no fight, no battle, for there is no one who is the equal of Jesus. He has let Satan have some authority on earth for a time, but that time ends with the second coming. Jesus now rules with a rod of iron: there is no mercy for his enemies, only devastating judgment. This was prophesied in Psalm 2:9: “you shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

This is the one who, in chapter 12, was the baby whom Satan sought to kill. But he was caught up to God and to his throne. He is the “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron”. (12:1-6) His ascent to heaven is actually turning point, the beginning of the end for Satan. He expelled Satan from heaven to earth (symbolically, for he took away Satan’s ability to accuse believers whom he (Jesus)  has clothed in righteousness”. Now he drives Satan from earth to hell.

The devastation of the defeat of rebellious men is further shown by the graphic image of birds called by an angel to feast on the bodies of the dead. (17) The angel resembles the angel whose glory illumined the earth, described to us in 18:1 as he announced the fall of Babylon. This angel appears “standing in the sun”, which would also make him appear very bright. Both angels announced in strong, or loud, voices. This begins the first view of Christ’s victory, shown in verses 17-21. This battle is the fulfillment of the battle prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39. There the Lord defeated Gog of the land of Magog. He is portrayed as the ultimate pagan power.

As in Old Testament fashion, their humiliation is shown by their not only being killed, but their bodies desecrated rather than buried. This is the picture of Ezekiel 39:4 & 17 where God, through Ezekiel, says Gog and Magog will fall and be eaten by birds of prey and beasts of the field.

The Beast and the False Prophet will be captured. They will be thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. (20) That lake is Hell, where all of the wicked will be tormented for eternity. This fulfills Ezekiel 38:22, God’s judgment on Gog. After the Beast and False Prophet are gone, the rest of humanity was slain by Christ. This fulfills Ezekiel 38:21, where the Lord said he would slay Gog’s army with a sword. There are no humans left except those who are with Christ.

The Great Prostitute, the Beast and the False Prophet are all removed at this point. The Great Prostitute is destroyed on earth, for she represents a worldly system of pleasure and greed. The Beast and False Prophet are sent back to the Pit, from which they came. These will not be in the new heavens and the new earth created for God’s people.  Only one enemy remains: the dragon, the serpent, Satan.

This terrible judgment may sound harsh to those of us who have never suffered persecution to any significant degree. But to those who have been martyred or who have lost loved ones to death, torture and prison, this is their vindication. For those who were attacked, but turned the other cheek, this is God striking on their behalf. For those who did not take vengeance because God said “vengeance is mine”, this is righteous vengeance. This is justice. And God, we know, is just.

It also shows us the terrible consequences of rebellion against God, of sin. While there is still time, repent and receive Christ as Savior and Lord if you have not. While there is still time, call others to repent.

With the end of this battle, the Lamb has fully triumphed. The seven bowls are poured out and God’s wrath is finished. We will get a short second look at this in 20:7-10, seeing Satan defeated.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Nspiration of Scripture



June 23, 2016

The whole of Scripture is the product of divine activities which enter it, however, not by superseding the activities of the human authors, but confluently with them; so that the Scriptures are the joint product of divine and human activities, both of which penetrate them at every point, irking harmoniously together to the production of a writing which is not divine here a d human there, but at once divine and human in every part, every word, every particular.

 B. B. Warfield, The Divine and Human In The Bible. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

I Am The Bread of Life (expanded)

On Sunday, in addition to teaching Sunday morning Bible study, I was invited to preach at a church that meets in a retirement complex. So, I expanded the previous study into a sermon with a gospel appeal. If you are interested, here it is.

“I Am The Bread of Life”
John 6:22-36

At this point in his earthy ministry, Jesus was followed by great crowds. They wanted to see what he would do, especially after he fed 5,000 people from a kid’s sack lunch. Even though Jesus crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the crowds found him. Jesus, however, was not interested in drawing crowds. He was interested in preaching the gospel of the kingdom and saving souls. 

When the crowed gathered, Jesus confronted them at the point of their spiritual need. He said, you only follow me because you got your fill of bread, not because you believe in me. That is what he meant by “not because you saw signs”. (26) Signs were supernatural actions, miracles, that Jesus performed to show he was the Son of God. He was referring specifically to his feeding of the 5,000 that is recorded in verses 1-15 of this chapter. It was a pretty good sign, wasn’t it? He took two fish and five barley loaves and broke them into enough pieces to feed thousands of people and have 12 baskets left over. That should tell you he was no ordinary man.

Jesus was a good communicator. He knew their minds were on bread, so he used bread as the starting point for his message about eternal life. He rebuked them for their single minded pursuit of physical\material things. He told them not to work for food that perishes, referring to physical bread. (27) 

That was a radical statement on its face, for the average Jew had to work all day to make enough to buy bread to feed his family for the day. Jesus was not condemning work or feeding one’s family, but was saying to focus on what is most important. Focus on eternal life. He called it the food that endures to eternal life. (27) And, Jesus said he is the source of this “bread”. Jesus is not a baker. He is the giver of eternal life.

That got the attention of the crowd. Everyone wants to know they will eat today. But much more so, everyone wants to know what will happen to them after the death of their bodies. It is the biggest question of all. 

Remember that the Jews believed in God. Many of them believed in a resurrection of the righteous at the end of the age. (Mary when Lazarus died) But their religion had become a burdensome system of rules and requirements. The Pharisees were the dominant force in the Jewish religion at that time. They were zealous for God's law at a time when there was great pressure to adopt the Roman way of life. But they became obsessed with rules. The  Pharisees had over 600 rules in addition to the commandments and regulations of God’s law given through Moses. You had to do a lot of work to get to heaven according to the Pharisees. 

So, when Jesus mentioned "labor", the crowd's mind went straight to works. They asked Jesus what works they must do to get this eternal life he spoke about. (28) Do we have to keep all of the hundred of rules of the Pharisees? Must we keep the commandments of Moses perfectly? What work must we do? 

They weren't the only ones to think this way. There is an inherent desire in men and women to make God accept them for who they are and what they have done. Ask a stranger why God should let him or her into heaven. Invariably they will say “I hope the good things I do outweigh the bad”. 

But Jesus turned the whole system of works on its head. He said “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent”. (29) They only work God accepts for salvation is belief in Jesus. Feeding orphans is great work. It will not get you into heaven. Visiting the sick is salutatory. It will not gain you eternal life. Paul wrote “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight…”. (Romans 3:20) 

Ephesians 2:8-9 sets out the same idea. (Read it) Isaiah wrote about that in the Old Testament. In 64:6, he said our works are filthy rags or polluted garments. 

Jesus is the one God sent to provide salvation. That is the message of John 3:16, the one verse everyone can quote (usually in the King James Version). God gave his Son to the world so that all who believe in him will not perish, but instead will have eternal life. 

What happens next is funny. It is funny and tragic. The people ask for a sign as proof so that they can believe Jesus. (28) It is funny because they just saw Jesus feed 5,000 people from a sack lunch some mom packed for her son. It is tragic because they were blind to the super natural acts of Jesus that reveal who he is. It bears out the truth of what Jesus said in verse 26: you are seeking me not because you saw the signs. “See” and “hear” in the New Testament mean to understand. They did not see the proofs of Jesus’ divinity because they focused on the bread, not the giver of bread.

It is also tragic because they misapplied the Old Testament story of the manna to compare Jesus to Moses. (31) the Jews expected a Messiah who would do great things like Moses did. Part of that is because of what Moses said in Deuteronomy 18:15. He told Israel God would raise up a prophet like him.  He said to listen to this prophet. So the crowd wants proof Jesus is that prophet. 

It is like they were saying you fed people one time, Moses fed Israel with manna for 40 years as they wandered through the desert. You can read about this in Exodus 16 if you are not familiar with the story. They said Moses gave them bread from heaven. (31) But Jesus corrected them. It was not Moses who gave them manna, but God the Father. (33)  And that same Father in heaven now gives them, and us, the true bread of heaven.

It is not that Manna was false bread. But it was incomplete bread. It sustained physical life for one day only. Each day manna fell and they were allowed to gather only enough for that day, except on the day before the Sabbath, when they could gather for that day and the Sabbath. Manna was a “type” of the greater life giving gift from the Father which would come centuries later and be the “true bread”. That true bread is the one who comes from heaven and give eternal life. It is Jesus. 

This is  an attractive offer of bread, isn’t it? The crowd thought so. They wanted it. They said give us this bread always. (34) But still they did not understand and believe who this bread is. Despite the miracle of feeding the 5,000, despite the metaphor of bread and, finally, despite Jesus saying flat out “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (35) they did not believe. (36) 

This saying “I am the bread of life” seems simple, but it is full of meaning. It is one of those places where an English translation cannot fully reveal the meaning the original Greek text. If I say “I am Bernice’s son”, you take the at face value. I mean she is my mother and I am her son. But when Jesus said “I am”, he referred all the way back to Exodus 3:14, where God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. God said his name is “I am who I am”. In the Greek translation  of the Old Testament, it is literally is the Greek words "ego eimi” said twice: I am, I am.  How does God give a name for himself that is meaningful, that captures his nature? God is. He exists eternally, unchanging, the only God. He is. 

So, Jesus, in saying “I am” claimed to be God. The words Jesus used to say "I am " in John 6:35 are the same words in God to say used to say “I am” in Exodus 3:14 in the Greek translation. Jesus was sent from God the Father and is himself divine. In the very first verse of this book, John explained Jesus this way: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God”.  

Jesus, as God, gives life and is life, eternal life. He is the giver of true bread and is also the bread of life. He gives us life by giving us himself. 

All of us are in the same position that the crowd was in. We have all heard Jesus tell us the gospel, the good news of salvation. Simply put, the only way out of your condition of sin and separation from God is through faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God who died on the cross for your sins, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. You can believe and be saved unto eternal life. Or you can reject him and face eternal separation from God. John 3:18 says "...whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

My prayer is that you will believe. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

REVELATION 19 - REJOICING IN HEAVEN

Revelation 19

Chapter 18 showed us the mourning of those who profited from the idolatry and pleasure seeking of the world order John called Babylon and the Great Prostitute. But not all mourned. Verse 20 contained an invitation to rejoice to all saints, apostles and prophets because God finally destroyed their enemy and vindicated their faith.

19:1-10
Praise and Rejoicing in Heaven

Chapter 19 shows us the response to this invitation. Praises ring out in heaven to God for his victory. A great multitude praising as in one loud voice cried “Hallelujah”. “Hallelujah” means to joyfully praise God, to boast in him. And so they do. The attribute salvation, glory and power to him. They acknowledge that he is just in his judgments, especially of the great prostitute, because she corrupted the earth into idolatry. God avenged his servants.

But one round of praise is not enough. They cry out the second time “hallelujah”. (3) This time it is because “the smoke from her (Babylon) goes up forever and ever”. This may be a reference to Isaiah 34:10 where God gives judgment to the nations. This is again the type of hyperbole used in apocalyptic writing. We know it will not actually burn on earth forever because (1) it is a world system and not an actual city and (2) the earth will be remade and restored to perfection. There will not be a burning ruin there. What it means is that the world system, symbolized by the city of Babylon will be permanently destroyed. When judgment comes, it is irreversible. It is the same message as 18:21, where the mighty angel threw a millstone into the sea to symbolize permanent destruction. This really is “the end of the world as we know it”. God is bringing down his enemies and ours at the end of the age.

There may also be a reference here to Isaiah 34. In that chapter, God declares judgment on the nations that were the enemy of his people. In verses 9 and 10, god says he will make it a burning pitch. “night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever.” If you went to the place where Edom used to be, you would not see a burning fire and smoke.



But, you would see the nation of Edom no longer exists. The Kingdoms of Jordan and Saudi Arabia occupy that land.






After the multitudes praise God, the 24 elders and four living creatures do the same. The fall down and worship him as they did in 4:10.

And it turns out, two rounds of praise is not enough. For a voice comes out from the throne telling all believers (servants who fear him) to praise our God. (We an assume from that command that the multitudes again shouted out praise to God.

I have never attended a church that was rambunctious in its praise, but this would be like a championship football game where a huge crowd in a big stadium let out continual cheers for its team. The closest I have come to this in a worship setting was a men’s conference at Texas stadium, where 60,000 men sang praises to God. It was glorious. But the scene described by John will be infinitely more glorious.

19:6-10
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

Even after three rounds of praise, a fourth ensues. This praise has two aspects. First, that the Lord our God Almighty reigns. Second, that the marriage of the lamb has come and the Bride is ready.

God is the king of creation and has always reigned. The Old Testament is full of passages that declare his rule and his sovereignty over the kingdoms of earth. Daniel 4, for example, contains Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation that God’s kingdom endures and that he does according to his will with all creation. (Dan. 4:34-35) But God has allowed men and women to act in rebellion against him in this age to accomplish his purposes.

But in the age to come, God’s reign is consummated, it is complete and no rebellion will exist. All of the rebels will be banished. The multitude celebrates the coming of that time or age. It is the same event that occurred with the seventh trumpet. See Revelation 7:15-18. Loud voices in heaven said “the kingdom the world has become the kingdom of our Lord of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever”. (7:15)

Revelation here turns again to the metaphor of marriage between a bride and groom. The bride is the church, composed of believers of all the ages. Christ is the groom. Ephesians 5 tells us “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (as his bride), that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in spender, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27)

This sanctification by Jesus comes to completion in these verses. The church is sanctified. This is shown by the bride’s clothing, fine linen, bright and pure. Notice that the bride did not earn her garments. Verse 8 says “it was granted to her to clothe herself with fine linen”. John explains that the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Rev. 19:8) The saints are righteous because the righteousness of Jesus was imputed to them. Their righteous deeds are obedience and the pursuit of spiritual purity. Some prefer to translate this verse as “[God’s] righteous actions on behalf of the saints”.  

In verse 9, the angel tells John to write a blessing. It is the fourth of Revelation’s seven blessings or benedictions. It is “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”.

The metaphor of the wedding and the wedding supper is used to convey the joy at the church finally united with Christ in perfection, in a place where no more persecution or suffering will occur. It is the picture of a couple who has waited and waited to get married, and now finally have a wedding and a celebration as they begin a new life together. Isaiah 25 described the scene this way:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

In this face of all of this joy and beauty, John was overcome. He fell down to worship the angel. But the angel would not allow it. Though he was a mighty angel, he said he was but a servant just like all human believers. We are to worship God and no one else. That has always been, and will always be, the rule. Prophecy is about Jesus and he must be the focus of our study of it.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

How Vast The Benefit Divine

How Vast the Benefit Divine (Augustus Toplady, 1774)

1. How vast the benefits divine
Which we in Christ possess!
We are redeemed from guilt and shame
And called to holiness.
But not for works which we have done,
Or shall hereafter do,
Hath God decreed on sinful men
Salvation to bestow.

2. The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to Thee alone,
Aught to ourselves we dare not take,
Or rob Thee of Thy crown.
Our glorious Surety undertook
To satisfy for man,
And grace was given us in Him
Before the world began.

3. This is Thy will, that in Thy love
We ever should abide;
That earth and hell should not prevail
To turn Thy word aside.
Not one of all the chosen race
But shall to heaven attain,
Partake on earth the purposed grace
And then with Jesus reign.
 
[Trinity Hymnal—Baptist edition, 1995 #95]

Sunday, June 12, 2016

REVELATION 18: THE FALL OF BABYLON

Revelation 18
The Fall of Babylon

Chapter 18 continues the story of Babylon and her destruction. Revelation 16 showed Babylon destroyed in the pouring out of the seventh bowl of wrath. Chapter 17 described Babylon with all of her wealth, pleasure and seductive power. It also set the stage for her destruction as the beast who had empowered her turns on her and destroys her. In chapter 18, Babylon’s destruction is announced, mourned and illustrated.

18:1-3
Babylon’s Fall Announced

John saw another angel come down from heaven to make the announcement. This angel had great authority. In the structure of angels, he was very high up. Or, possibly, he had great authority over the earth. He also had great glory. His appearance alone made the earth bright with his glory. He must have been close to God because his glory is described in the same way as God’s in Ezekiel 43:2. There Ezekiel saw God’s glory in the eschatological temple and said “the earth shone with his glory”.

This angel repeats the announcement of the fall of Babylon, saying “fallen, fallen is Babylon the great”. This was first announced in 14:8 as the second of three angelic messages. As mentioned before, this is the language of Isaiah 21:9, where God decreed the fall of the physical city of Babylon in the Old Testament.

Babylon’s destruction is complete and devastating. This is shown by the fact that no humans will dwell with her. She is only occupied by demons and unclean things. (2) This is similar to the Old Testament judgments of God on cities, where he declared that they would only be occupied by beasts, birds and demons. For example, Isaiah 13 is about the judgment on Old Testament Babylon.  God declared that it would never be inhabited by people, only wild animals and howling creatures.

When the kings of earth turn on her, she will have no one left to occupy her. She will be desolate. The system of pleasure and greed will be abandoned by humanity under the leadership of the Beast. The world that seeks to draw people away from Christ through out the age through the pursuit of wealth, power and pleasure will be destroyed. There is no place for this system in the perfect place God has for believers in eternity. Instead of Old Babylon, we will have New Jerusalem.

John saw the Great Prostitute, Babylon, as a queen, wealthy and seductive. But she becomes in judgment an empty, defeated shell. Instead of good things, only evil and death remain. Of course, it would be difficult for the Beast, who empowered the Prostitute, to deliver on promises of wealth and pleasure as God’s wrath is poured out upon the earth. At that point, it is better to make her the enemy.

In God’s purposes, there is no place for a system that seduces people into sin, especially idolatry, as he restores creation to perfection.

The angel makes clear that Babylon is destroyed as judgment. (3) She led the nations into idolatry. Kings followed her and merchants grew rich from the power of the luxury she created. Wealth is a seductive and powerful weapon in the battle for the souls of men and women. Because of her sins, Babylon the Prostitute faces God’s wrath in judgment.

18:4-8
The Call for Separation

The next message comes from a voice in heaven. The voice is not identified, but is apparently from God or his messenger, for the voice calls for God’s people to come out of Babylon, to come out of the world. If they do not, they will take part in her sins and suffer her judgment.

My mother used to say “bad company corrupts good morals”. While we live in the world and preach the gospel to it, we, as believers, do not become part of the world in the sense of adopting its values and attitudes. Ironically, the denominations and churches who have adapted their message to accommodate the world, have actually lost most of their membership and become irrelevant.

It is easy, when you live in the world, to live like the world. But God demands absolute loyalty. When the Israelites prepared to go into Canaan, God told them not to adopt the ways of the Canaanites in the land. He gave them a law to observe. That law made them different from every other nation in Canaan, both in appearance and in obedience to God’s standards of holiness. He promised to bless them for obedience and curse them for disobedience. When they became idolaters, he drove them from the land.

Jesus clearly taught this truth. He said no one could serve two masters, no one could serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24) He told us not to lay up treasures on earth but in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-20)He distinguished his followers from the world, teaching that the world would persecute his followers for they were not of the world. He said “if the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as it own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

And, in the letters to the seven churches of Asia, at the beginning of Revelation, Jesus again warned them against succumbing to the ways of the Roman Empire.

That message holds true for us today. If you succumb to the world, as represented by Babylon the Great Prostitute, you will share in the world’s judgment. But if you endure in the faith until the end, you will receive eternal life from Jesus. And so, God, through his angel, calls us to come out of the world and come into the Kingdom. This has been his message in every age. Abraham was called out of Ur. Israel was called out of Egypt. The Asian churches were called to come out of Rome.

This is an “exodus theme”. Hosea 11:1 refers to the original exodus. God said “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son”. Isaiah foresaw an exodus out of the world and into the kingdom with the coming of salvation. He wrote “Depart, depart, go out from there. Touch no unclean thing go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.” (Isaiah 52:11)

God kept track of the Babylon’s sins. In verse 5, it says he “remembered her iniquities”
which were heaped as high as heaven. Now the time for judgment of those sins has come. God will punish by turning the Babylon’s sins back upon her. The voice said “pay her back as she herself has paid back others”. (6) Several English versions say to pay her back double for her deeds. However, I suggest that the better translation would be to repay her “duplicate” for her deeds and mix an equivalent portion in the cup she mixed.

The Bible has many instances of judgment being a punishment one inflicted on another now inflicted on the punisher. Many describe this as “an eye for an eye”. Some call it “lex talionis”, the law of retribution. God inflicted on the nations that attacked Israel the same sufferings they inflicted on Israel. This is borne out by verse 7, which says “give her a like measure of torment and mourning”, not twice as much. The world lived in luxury and splendor while persecuting the saints. God vindicates his saints. He will turn that same suffering back on the world that inflicted it on the saints.

The world is always arrogant in its success. Here Babylon says she sits as a queen and never suffers or mourns. So, God will bring all of the suffering on her in one day until she is destroyed, burned up with fire from he judgment of the Almighty God. (8) Peter also wrote “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly”. (2 Peter 3:7)

Next we will see the mourning of those who profited from Babylon contrasted with the rejoicing of those in heaven over her destruction.

18:9-19
Mourning Over Babylon

The next section is a lament, or a collection of laments. Those who profited from their relationship with Babylon mourn her destruction. William Hendriksen wrote “Hence, when Babylon perishes, the economic chaos is complete; the world of the unbeliever, that on which he has pinned his hopes and built his trust, collapses! (More Than Conquerors, page 210)

First the kings that allied with her in idolatry mourn. (9) Their power and wealth declines with her destruction. But notice they stand far off. Despite their former alliance, they attempt to distance themselves from her in her destruction. (10) Rome had many kings and governors who profited by their alliance. In return for loyalty and worship, the emperor provided safety and trade. When Rome fell, these kings fell also, or were at least greatly diminished. And every king in every age that commits idolatry in return for wealth and power will be judged and destroyed by the Lord.

The merchants also mourned. (11)  Even as Rome declined, its biggest imports continued to be luxury goods. Here they mourn because no one buys their expensive goods. (12-13) Those goods included slaves. Note that the angel calls them “human souls”. (13) Slavery still exists in our time. Human trafficking is a major problem even in America. Each of these who are taken, sold and abused are human souls. God will hold those accountable who traffic in them for money.

As the kings did, the merchants stand far off to mourn. (15) They hope to avoid her fate. They note that all of Babylon’s wealth has been laid waste in a single hour. (17) When God deems it to be time, his judgment will be sudden and swift.

The shipmasters and seamen also mourn. Again it is because there is no one to buy their goods. All of those huge ships full of shipping containers will have no ports that want to receive them.

Yet, one group does not mourn. The angel called upon believers to rejoice in Babylon’s destruction. All of those persecuted by the world in every age receive vindication in answer to their prayers. The angel said “God has given judgment for you against her”. Or, it could read “God has inflicted on her the judgment you received from her”. That is vindication. And that is the reason for our rejoicing.

A Picture of Babylon’s Destruction
18:21-24

An angel graphically, and metaphorically, portrays the destruction of Babylon. As the saints rejoice, a mighty angel throws a millstone into the ocean. A millstone is a very large stone used to grind grain in a mill. It would sink straight to the bottom. It symbolizes a permanent end to the world system. It “will be found no more”. This is emphasized in verses 22-23 which lists all of the things that will no longer be found in Babylon.

This is similar to Jeremiah’s message regarding Old Testament Babylon: “Just so shall Babylon sink down and not rise again because of the calamity that I am going to bring upon her”. (Jeremiah 51:60) Then Jeremiah was told to tie the scroll to a stone and throw it in the Euphrates river.

There will be no signs of life in Babylon, no music, no craftsmen, no grinding of grain, no light and no marriage. This again is a symbol of desolation.

The last verses of the chapter reiterate the reasons for her destruction. She deceived all of the nations by her sorcery. (23) And in so doing, she killed the prophets and the saints. Their blood is on the world’s hands.