"The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.' And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men. The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! 'For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.' Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What is like this great city?' They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.' Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her! Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore. The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth." (Rev 18:9-24, NKJV)
The pulse of Divine life is found throughout this marvelous book. It comes from God, and contains the purpose of God. It was given through Christ, and reflects "the mind of Christ." It was given through an angel, and contains remarkable angelic activities and perceptions. The Holy Spirit speaks through its message, and it contains "the mind of the Spirit." This is a heavenly perspective of things occurring in this world. They are things that appear chaotic and out of control, yet are strictly managed by the King of kings and Lord of lords. The church judged successful by worldly standards is pronounced "dead" by Jesus. The highly structured governments so highly revered by men are called a "beast" by the Lord of glory. The church that navigates will within the world order, and is approved by it, is called "the great harlot" by the One Who purchased the church, and gave Himself for it. Saints who were killed because of their testimony, and left the world in seeming shame, are seen alive and well, awaiting the vindication of their blood.
This is a book that leaves no question about the destiny of the devil, worldly government, or the false church. There is no doubt about what will happen to those who reject Christ, deny His Gospel, and oppose His people. On the other hand, the outcome of Christ's glorious reign is declared with certainty. He will triumph over all of His enemies, and those who align themselves with Him will share in that triumph. Those who wear the name of Jesus will be viewed with the strictest attention-not to see if they have flaws, but to see if their hearts are involved in their profession.
The world order has been summarily rejected. Not a single fragment of it will ultimately survive. Its wisdom will fail, together with its purpose and treasures. All who have refused to come away from it will perish, and those who have, in faith, separated from it, will be forever with the Lord. The church that has joined itself to this world will share in its determined fate. It is not possible for those in love with this world to avoid this judgment. That is the resounding message of this segment of Revelation.
It is a source of great sorrow to me that this perception is so uncommon in our time. The Western church, where affluence and peace currently are prospering, is particularly at fault here. Its ministers are often too worldly in their thinking to be blessed by the Lord. The programs that are offered are too close to the cursed order, and deal too little with eternal matters. With everything from weight-loss clinics to senior citizen outings, and entertainment to sporting events, the modern church appears to have little to prepare people for the end of the world and the judgment of God.
While this is a subject that is not palatable, it is the prevalent theme throughout the book of Revelation. It is a word that is essential to believers maintaining an aggressive faith. Many a soul has nearly despaired because of the stultifying affects of spiritual Babylon. Were it not for corrupt Christendom, there would have bene far less tears shed by the righteous. The bulk of their opposition has come from those wearing the name of Christ.
However, Jesus assures us this is only a temporary situation. Our Lord will put all enemies under His feet. The truth will triumph gloriously. The saints will be publically exonerated and vindicated.
The Evil Conglomerate
The attempt to merge religion and the world is the devil's brain child. It is wicked beyond imagination, and cannot survive the judgment of the Lord. "True religion" is heavenly life embraced by mortals. It is "the mind of Christ" shared by those who have been plucked from the burning. Rather than allowing for unity with the world order, it involves extrication from it.
Those who are in Christ Jesus are called to be "partakers of the Divine Nature" through God's exceeding "great and precious promises" (2 Pet 1:4). The "fashion of this world," because it is passing away, (1 Cor 7:31) is in sharp conflict with both the promises of God and the Divine Nature in which we participate. The mind at home in, and nurtured by, the world is the "fleshly mind" (Col 2:18), or "carnal mind" (Rom 8:7). It is "hostile" to God, and is not subject to His Law (Rom 8:7). To attempt to merge these two minds is not only an exercise in futility, it is war against God.
Yet this is precisely what spiritual Babylon has done-attempted to mingle the flesh and the Spirit. It is aggressive in its attempt to bring harmony between the mind of the flesh and "the mind of the Spirit." It thinks nothing of trying to combine the world's concept of man with God's revelation of him. It undertakes to fuse the world's view of organization with the "unity of the Spirit." In doing this, Babylon has judged itself unworthy of eternal life. It has revealed its discontent with the Divine way of doing things. The extraordinary prevalence of this kind of thinking in church is mind boggling. One can scarcely find a place where these things are not accepted without reservation. In fact, the seeming success of the modern church is largely owing to its alliance with the world.
Now, the Spirit will unveil the response of the world to the Lord's judgment of Babylon. It weeps and laments as the survivor of an unholy marriage. Sorrow grips the heart of the unregenerate when false religion crumbles to the ground. It has made the world feel comfortable in its sin, and has been the occasion of ungodly gain. It did not weep when the life of Jesus was taken, but how it will weep when Satan's fabrication of the church-that great harlot-is taken!
THE KINGS OF THE EARTH WEEP AND LAMENT
"The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her . . " We must remember, "the kings of the earth" are friends to neither Jesus nor His people. Nine times they are mentioned in this book. Jesus is said to be Prince over them (1:5). They cannot abide the coming of the Lord, and will seek to hide from Him (6:15). They are gathered together by demons, to attempt to do battle against God Almighty (16:14; 19:19). They commit fornication with the false church, giving to her what belongs to God alone (17:1-2; 18:3,9). False religion has unduly influenced them (17:18). In the end, they will have to lay all of the glory at the feet of Jesus (21:23-24).
These "kings" had no identity with the Lamb of God. They did not bow their knees to Him, nor call upon His Name. They were His enemies. When Jesus was enfleshed amongst us, these kings "set themselves against" Him (Psa 2:2; Acts 4:26). The Lord is determined to "cut off" their spirit, rendering them powerless and without influence (Psa 76:12). They will be "punished" by the Lord for their refusal to honor Him (Isa 24:21).
These very kings, however, had no difficulty embracing the false church-corrupt religion. They would have none of God, but committed fornication with the "great harlot." It was not a passing association they had with Satan's fabrication. Our text says they "lived luxuriously with her." They poured their affection out on her, and "shared her luxury" (NIV). Nothing about her was too abrasive to discourage such affection. Her message did not grate against their hearts, or chaff against their conscience. Thus, the most influential of the world feels perfectly at ease with the worst of religion. Keep in mind, the real people of God are the dwelling place for God (1 Cor 3:16-17). Spiritual Babylon, or the corrupt church, is the dwelling place of demons and foul spirits (Rev 18:2).
There are at least three conditions that allows "the kings of the earth" to commit fornication with the "great harlot." They are a recurring theme throughout this book, and are worthy of notation.
A spirit of alienation from God, and comfortable accord with the world order is found throughout Babylon. The exaltation of flesh and self over the Son of God is prevalent in the corrupt church. Things that God cannot abide are tolerated within false religion. These range from unacceptable thinking to indulgence in pride and gross immorality. Were it not for these conditions, "the kings of the earth" could not cohabit with religion. A church that seeks affinity with the world must move away from the Lord, reject His power, and be ruled by the temporal order. It is not possible to be received by the world without doing these things.
Weeping At A Distance
" . . . will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment . . . " When the two witnesses were slain, the world "rejoiced," "made merry," and "sent gifts to one another" (11:10). When the "chief priests" heard Judas would betray the Lord Jesus, "they were glad, and promised to give him money" (Mk 14:11). When the Gentiles were given an opportunity to do what they wanted to Jesus, they "mocked," "scourged," and "crucified" Him (Matt 20:19).
The world did NOT lament when Jesus died. Neither Herod nor Pilate led a lamentation for the Son of God. The "kings of the earth" were not sorrowful when Peter and John were imprisoned, when Stephen was martyred, or when John was exiled on Patmos. All who were joined to the world order "hated" Jesus because He testified that "its works were evil" (John 7:7). When the "Spirit of truth" came into then world, the world could not receive Him. It did not see Him, know Him, or countenance His indispensable influence (John 14:17).
How different the world's reaction to Babylon the great! When she falls, the kings of the earth "will weep and lament for her." They imagined themselves advantaged by her, although they hated the Lord's Christ. They were glad to see Jesus go, but they were sad when Babylon was brought down.
Mark it well, Babylon had seduced men from faithfulness to God. It had provided a religion that allowed people to remain a part of the cursed order, thereby making them comfortable in their sin. That is why Christ's enemies "weep and lament for her."
They seem to sense Babylon cannot recover. They see her overthrow is thorough and irreversible-"they see the smoke of her burning." Indeed, there is coming a time when Babylon, like Sodom, will be gone forever!
Our text indicates the "kings of the earth" will see this demise before the end of time. Babylon is the chief kingdom that will be ground to powder by the Kingdom of God (Dan 2:44). Ancient Babylon was great. The Medio-Persian empire was impressive. The Grecian domain was significant. The Roman empire was glorious and lengthy But they were all footmen next to Babylon the great! More souls will be cast into the lake of fire because of delusion, than because of the pressure of persecution, or the legislation of threatening laws.
" . . . saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come'" Keep in mind, from the heavenly perspective, Babylon was neither "great" nor "mighty." That is an earthly perspective of this monstrosity. We know this is the case because it fell "in one hour." Neither its seeming greatness nor might could avert Divine judgment!
What a sense of loss there will be among Christ's enemies: "Alas, alas!" Three times in this chapter this lament is heard. The kings of the earth cry out, "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come" (v 10). The merchants of the earth shout, "Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing" (v 16). Every shipmaster, sailor, and sea-trader lamented, "Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate" (v 19). See how grief stricken is the world!
The world, that very rarely sees anything the same, all behold the fall of Babylon the same. The kings saw her as a "mighty city" whose "judgment" came in "one hour." The earth's merchants saw her as a "great city" which "came to nothing." Those who used the sea saw her as a "great city" who "is made desolate." They all knew she would never rise again, and how they missed her.
The kings beheld the smoke of her ruin from "afar off" because they knew nothing could be done for her. They did not come to her aid, for her overthrow was so apparent they knew any such effort would be futile. They look on from a distance like Lot watched Sodom go up in flame. How powerless the world becomes when the hand of Divine judgment falls! Who is able to resist the Lod?
THE MERCHANTS OF THE EARTH WILL AND MOURN
"And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men." Here is a most telling remark. The "merchants of the earth" do not lament because they can no longer buy from Babylon, but because no one any longer buys from them. It is as though the demise of spiritual Babylon devastates earthly traffic like her rise brought a sudden surge to it. These merchants had profited from religion-false religion. Their coffers had become fat because of the merger of religion with the world.
The listing of merchandise is a telling one. With one exception, everything is temporal. With that single deviation, everything has to do with this world. You must be able to see the ungodly merger yielded no advantage for souls in quest of eternity. The world dominated this alliance. That is the consistent result of attempts to placate and accommodate the world. It never yields godly results. The world contaminates everything and anything it touches.
There are no benefits for the soul listed here. Rather, souls are exploited, sold, and merchandised. The closer the church gets to the world, the fewer benefits there are for the soul. The words of Micah are appropriate here. "Arise and depart, For this is not your rest; Because it is defiled, it shall destroy, Yes, with utter destruction" (Mic 2:10). Those professing the Lord must take seriously any effort of religion to appease the world, appeal to its desires, or merge with it.
There is a full representation of commerce here. Every conceivable area of merchandising is mentioned.
VEGETABLE: wood, cinnamon, fine flour, wheat. MINERAL: Gold, silver, precious stones, brass, iron, marble. ANIMAL: beasts, sheep, horses, ivory. PERSONAL ADORNMENT: Pearls, fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet. FURNITURE: Vessels of wood, brass, iron, marble. SENSUAL GRATIFICATION: odors, ointments, frankincense. FOOD: wine, oil, fine flour, wheat. SOCIAL INFLUENCES: slaves, souls of men. THINGS IN THEIR RAW AND UNREFINED STATE: Gold, silver, beats, sheep, pearls. THINGS IN A REFINED STATE: precious stones, fine flour, linen, purple, silk, scarlet, vessels, chariots. WHY SUCH A DESCRIPTION?
Why is such a description given? This is a symbolic way of saying Babylon is firmly rooted in "this present evil world." What she has to offer pertains to THIS world, and NOT the "world to come." This is where she dwells, and this is where she promotes commerce. Her influence has permeated into every facet of this world, and every aspect of this world has contaminated her.
Of the world's order. Babylon's wares are of the same order as herself. They are merely outward, external, temporal, and even gaudy. Note her ostentatious appearance: "And the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations" (Rev 17:4).
External Worth. She majors in external values, and thus the merchants of the earth can, through her, traffic in gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, and materials.
Notable Appearance. As described, Babylon makes a notable appearance, and thus the merchants of the earth, as they profit from her, deal in vessels of wood, brass, iron, ands marble.
Pleasant and Attractive. To the world, there is something pleasant and attractive about her. How appropriate that she is said to profit the earth's merchants through handling cinnamon, odors, ointments, and frankincense.
The Best of Earth. As the refined diet of Babylon of old, spiritual Babylon offers the best of this world's victuals. Thus, the worlds retailers are said to deal with wine, oil, fine flour, and wheat.
Extensive Influence. The influence wrought by false religion is remarkable. This is evidenced by reference to the merchants dealing with beasts, sheep, horses, and chariots. Every avenue of life has been infected by false religion.
THE MOST HEINOUS THING
There is something in this text that is more heinous than everything thus mentioned. It is spiritually barbaric and coarse. Not only did Babylon and the merchants of the earth deal with things, they also dealt with "the souls of men." That is the final thing mentioned in the extensive list " . . . and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men" (18:13).
Babylon USES men for her advantage, rather than seeking to benefit them. Like the false prophets of old, her leaders "fed themselves, and fed not my flock" (Ezek 34:8). In this, Babylon stands in stark contrast to the Lord of glory! Jesus came to "seek and save that which was lost" (Lk 19:10). He spoke of harvesting people-reaping them for God-not selling them (Matt 9:37; Lk 10:2). Babylon, however, uses people to advance her own cause, and barters with them for the furtherance of her own objectives. She has joined with the "merchants of the earth" in the promotion of "merchandise of gold, silver, and precious stones . . . and slaves and souls of men."
Whereas those who serve the Lord Jesus are "kings and priests" (Rev 1:5-6), those who serve Babylon are "slaves." They either serve Babylon's purpose, or are placed on the selling block, to be dispensed as mere chattel. Many a tender and sensitive soul has been dashed upon the rocks of lifeless Christian institutionalism. Others have felt they were being used without ever receiving anything from the organization that could transfer to "the world to come."
God sends shepherd to make His people great. He provides for them to be equipped to do every good work, and to have utility in His glorious Kingdom (Eph 4:11-16). Such shepherds have no odors to sell. They do not offer silver or gold or flashy appearances. They cannot stock your barn with sheep and horses. They can, however, assist you in laying up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt. How the true church differs from Babylon the great-Satan's great delusion!
Let us have done with lifeless religion and powerless profession! It is too much like the world, and the world is comfortable with it. With one mind and soul, let us seek the things that are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God (Col 3:1-3). We will find that very quest will put a distance between ourselves and Babylon. The merchants of the earth cannot capitalize on real spiritual life. Wherever the truth of the Gospel is found, wicked men are deprived.
"The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all." Here is a vivid portrayal of the utter futility of "a form of godliness that denies the power thereof" (2 Tim 3:5). Here is a picture of a system that cultured lust-ungodly lust. It developed and catered to an appetite for things that will pass away. And a voracious appetite it is! The things desired are not what is offered to fallen humanity through the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not eternal-not "the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14). They are not "the things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col 3:1). Rather, they are things that are tied to the temporal order, and are destined to pass away with it.
There is a staggering amount of religion that is of this order. Power, fame, wealth, success, security, recognition-they are all part of Satan's arsenal. He wraps them with religion and leads men to want them. Their soul "longs for" these temporal things, and their religion cultures the longing.
The phrase "your soul longed for," or "thy soul lusted after," describes a consuming, not a fleeting, desire. Appetites are cultured and geared for things that will pass away-and all in the name of religion. Babylon appeals to the unregenerate heart. It is the religion of the flesh, and caters to its appetites. In a veiled form, it offers things the fallen nature craves, while rubbing a religious salve upon the conscience to remove any sense of impropriety. Its offerings range from close human relationships, to a stable and profitable career. Babylon will give you the kind of scholarship and music that is unoffensive to the flesh, yet robs the soul of spiritual sensitivity. Such accommodations are an indication of its wickedness.
But no matter how strongly the soul craves the things Babylon offers, and regardless of the abundance of those things, they WILL pass away. They are not suited for the spirit of man. They cannot transfer to the world to come. They cannot remain when the glory of the Lord is revealed. How dreadful the words: "And the fruits of the desire of thy soul did go away from thee, and all things--the dainty and the bright--did go away from thee, and no more at all mayest thou find them" (Young's Literal. Translation).
A Consistent Representation
While it is not common to hear or think of such things, we must discipline ourselves to do so. Ponder the tragedy of culturing your soul to crave things that cannot last-of devoting your life to a quest for things that are transitory. Remember, man is made in the image of God. The "great salvation" of God is calculated to prepare men for eternity. Everything about that salvation accentuates things that are forever. The salvation itself is "eternal," bringing "eternal life" (Heb 5:9; 1 John 2:25). We are promised an "eternal weight of glory," and are admonished to look intently upon unseen things that are "eternal" (2 Cor 4:17-18). We are told of an "eternal purpose," "eternal glory," "eternal redemption," and an "eternal inheritance" (Eph 3:11; 2 Tim 2:10; Heb 9:12,15). With unwavering consistency, we are exhorted to seek things that "are above" (Col 1:1-3). The promise of ultimate satisfaction is given ONLY to those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt 5:6). Our first and foremost quest is to be "the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt 6:33). There is absolutely no ambiguity or lack of clarity in God's Word about this-none at all.
With great solemnity believers are cautioned, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is NOT in him" (1 John 2:15). It can be said of Babylon, "They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them" (1 John 4:5). Instead of assisting people to overcome the world, which is the assignment and work of faith, 1 John 5:4), Babylon knits is constituents to the world. It deliberately ignores the fact that Jesus chooses us "out of the world" (John 15:19).
Yet, in spite of this deluge of Divine direction, Satan has deceived multitudes into seeking what can be seen, and will ultimately be destroyed. Were you to remove what is fleshly and of this world from the average mega-church, you would have very little, if anything, remaining. Its strength is its carnality (if that can be called strength).
What Babylon offers cannot even be desired by the "new heart." The "new man" finds no satisfaction in the its meager offerings. Every honest heart knows this to be the case. If it is not known cognitively, or through the reasoning processes, it is known intuitively or instinctively. Believers may not always be able to put their finger on the fatal flaw of Babylon, but they sense it is there. They know their souls are not being fed, and their hearts are not satisfied.
Found No More at All
Sometimes what we long for is taken from us, only to be restored later. That is the way it is with joy and strength: sometimes they leave us for a season. How precious it is when they return. The "joy of salvation" can be restored (Psa 51:12), and the "health" of our countenance can return (Psa 42:11).
But this is not the case with the situation before us. Not only are the things longed for removed, they will never again be enjoyed. That is a picture of utter frustration! To contemplate spending ones life nurturing a desire that will be kept but never satisfied is staggering! Yet, that is precisely the case with the adherents of Babylon. "And the fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them" (NASB). The merger of the church with the world will yield an empty cupboard!
The removal of what was desired did NOT take away the desire also! The hunger remained, but the source of gratification passed away. Ultimately, this will be realized by those who are cast into hell. "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44-48).
The phrase "their worm dieth not" is taken from the prophet Isaiah (Isa 66:24). It depicts an aspect of punishment that is most dreadful. This is not a reference to a literal worm or maggot that feeds upon the dead. Rather, it portrays a gnawing or goading conscience that remains without consuming. Even the English definition of the word includes, "something that torments or devours within" (Mirriam-Webster Dictionary). The torment is generated because what is desired cannot be appropriated. Notwithstanding the inability to meet the desire, it continues to intensify and grow. What a dreadful circumstance!
Thus Babylon has promoted desires that cannot ultimately be satisfied. At the very best, they yield only "pleasures . . . for a season" (Heb 11:25). The "fashion of this world passes away" (1 Cor 7:31), and therefore can yield nothing permanent or eternal. Its well eventually runs dry, and its pleasures finally cease to exist. Yet the heart that is set upon appropriating these fleeting things will continue to long for them, even after they are gone.
In the End
In the end, the desires of the heart will be locked in place, with no possibility of reversal. Those who fill their hearts with the things of this world, religious or not, will find themselves in the most grievous of circumstances. James put it this way: "You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter" (James 5:5). But for those who have developed a hunger and thirst for righteousness, the time of satisfaction will come. In the glory, we will occupy a realm replete and brimming with all of the things we desire. What blessedness will belong to those who have prepared for the absence of temporal things! Eternity will yield a large harvest to those who have prepared for it. Take seriously the admonition to seek the things that are above!
Prepare, child of God, Prepare! Do not allow yourself to be joined to something that is passing away! Stand aloof from what is temporal, particularly if it is religious. A religion that is of this world will eventually lead to absolute and utter frustration. Such woes will begin here, and culminate there.
THEY STAND AT A DISTANCE
Merchants of These things
"The merchants of these things . . . "
The first reference is to "the merchants of the earth" (v. 11). Although referring to the same general class, there is a slight variation here. They are referred to as "the merchants OF THESE THINGS." These are specialists in the supply of temporal things-things that will be taken away. These are "things" promoted by Babylon, the false church. They are not eternal things, and will not be able to survive the judgment of God or the end of the world.
I hesitate to make any attempt to list some of these things, yet feel compelled to do so. The world has profited much from Babylon the great. False religion has fattened the coffers of fundamentally ungodly people. Some of the areas of abuse include education, entertainment, music, economics, motivation, leadership training, religious artifacts, jewelry, architecture, art, clothing, literature, electronics, etc. It cannot be denied that some helpfulness has come from all of these areas. However, when they become the focus of attention, and an appetite is developed for them, Babylon is present.
Made Rich By her
" . . . who became rich by her . . . " It is never good when worldly men profit from religion. It has never been God's purpose to cause the ungodly to flourish. He has allowed such to occur, to be sure, but it is not for blessing. The world, together with all of its merchants, hated Jesus and His Apostles (John 15:19). On one occasion, a revival in Ephesus resulted in the demise of the silversmiths business (Acts 19:24-27). Had the tactic of Babylon been employed, the merchants would have stopped making "silver shrines of Diana," and started making something Christian.
What an anomaly we have here. The "merchants" of the world "made rich" by religion! Of course, this should not surprise us. We still hear of those who are looking for this world to be a "better place to live." They tell us this is what Jesus could do for us, even though this is never held out as a Divine objective-never! Rather than targeting making the world "a better place," the Lord is preparing us to leave it. It is not our home, we are strangers in it, and our basic citizenship is not here. Worldly merchants cannot look to become rich from us, for our soul does not covet what they have to sell!
This is too hard for some to receive, even though the Word of God is quite clear on the point. Jesus revealed He would bring disruption and a lack of harmony in the world. His words are in sharp conflict with the effect of Babylon the great. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household" (Matt 10:34-36, NKJV). Again he said, "I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! . . . Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division" (Lk 12:49-51). Does that sound like the type of circumstance in which the "merchants of these things" can become rich? Indeed not!
Like The Kings, They Stand at a Distance
" . . . will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing . . . " Remember, the "kings of the earth" also beheld the demise of the great harlot from a distance (18:10). The "merchants of the earth" do the same thing for the same reason, i.e., "for fear of her torment." They stand at a distance because they are impotent to help their fallen colleague. They also stand at a distance because they are afraid of being swept up in her dissolution. They had formed a coalition with her, but can do nothing for her. God Almighty has judged the "great city," and there is not a person or group of persons that can help her. The "kings of the earth" are impotent, as well as the "merchants of the earth." Their expertise and ingenuity utterly fails them. They can only "weep and wail" in despair.
" . . . and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!" Babylon looked impressive and invincible to the world-but she was not! She trafficked in things precious and valuable, but was no better because of it. Her finery could not sustain her for a single hour when once the judgment of God fell upon her. The "merchants of the earth" who had prospered by this religious monstrosity lament, "For in one hour such great riches came to nothing." Like the silversmiths in Ephesus, their prosperity was affected. They lamented it, but could do nothing about it. Like Lot watching the destruction of Sodom, they stood at a distance!
Suffice it to say, it is better to stand at a distance from the unholy city BEFORE it is taken down by the King of kings and Lord of lords!
"Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, 'What is like this great city?'" See how extensively Babylon had infected the world, and how thoroughly was its merger with it! The Kings of the earth loved her. The merchants of the earth loved her. Now "every shipmaster" also laments her fall. Those who "trade on the sea," purveying their goods across continents, had profited from the "great harlot."
Again, the language is taken from the prophets, and reveals the total destruction that as been appointed to spiritual Babylon. When ancient Babylon fell, the prophet challenged, "Wail, O ships of Tarshish, For your stronghold is destroyed" (Isa 23:14, NASB).
Ezekiel used precisely the same language in foretelling the fall of Tyre in Ezekiel 27. The language is remarkably like that of our text. The "kings of the earth" are mentioned (verses 33,35). "Merchants" are mentioned (verses 13,15,17,21-24,36). All manner of cloth, spices, and metals are mentioned (verses 15-24). Those who did business on the sea were also mentioned (verses 25-32).
"They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.'" Again, this is the same reaction those who traveled in ships had when ancient Tyre fell. The language is almost precisely that of the prophet Ezekiel. "And all who handle the oar, the sailors, and all the pilots of the sea will come down from their ships; they will stand on the land, and they will make their voice heard over you and will cry bitterly. They will cast dust on their heads, they will wallow in ashes. Also they will make themselves bald for you and gird themselves with sackcloth; and they will weep for you in bitterness of soul with bitter mourning" (Ezek 27:29-32).
There is a message given in this type of language. The overthrow of Babylon is sure. It is thorough. And it cannot be reversed. Babylon the great is headed for oblivion. It cannot be recovered by the most formidable of this world-"the kings of the earth." It will not be brought back to life by those expert in economy and business-"the merchants of the earth." Nor, indeed, will it be rejuvenated by those who do business in the remote parts of the earth-"the shipmasters."
Behold the Nature of the Trio
This wretched trio (kings, merchants, and shipmasters)did not weep and lament when Jesus died! They did not raise the voice of lamentation when Stephen, Paul, Peter, or Antipas died! You did not hear a wail or see a tear from them when the early church was "scattered abroad," or was hounded and persecuted by its enemies! They raised no voice of protest or lamentation when millions of believers were martyred for their faith, or when the Word of God was wrested from the hands of the common man. But they weep and ament over the fall of Babylon. And why so? Because the world "loves its own" (John 15:19), and Babylon is its kind. It thinks like the world because it is of the world, and has the spirit of this world.
There are at least two things taught in this passage. Both are foundational teachings, and are repeatedly stated in God's Word. A heart that does not consider these things is a defective and deceived one.
The World Order Will be Destroyed
Here is an aspect of truth that can easily escape us. Satan makes every effort to make us believe the world is permanent, and that we should conduct our lives as though it will never end. In an accelerated effort to convince the saints of this lie, he has penetrated the church. The religion he has created knows nothing of a heavenly emphasis. Rarely, if ever, does it make reference to the world to come. How differently the Spirit speaks!
"Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish . . . The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage . . . Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment . . . heaven and earth shall pass away . . . the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up . . . " (Psa 102:25-27; Isa 24:19-20; 51:5; Matt 24:35; 2 Pet 3:10). Any approach to religion, however conservative it may appear, that obscures or minimizes these declarations is NOT of God. It belongs to the order of Babylon the great. Both the heavens and the earth will "flee" from before the presence of the glorified Christ, and no place will be found for them (Rev 20:11).
What The World Offers Cannot Last
A temporal world can offer no eternal benefits. What the world-even the religious world-offers, eventually fades. In fact, it is destined for destruction with the rest of the cursed order. Its fruits, for which men lust, will depart from those who want them.
Ultimately, anything proceeding from the natural order cannot satisfy the soul. Its pleasure is only "for a season." Think of the affirmations of the Spirit concerning this matter.
"Though evil is sweet in his mouth, and he hides it under his tongue, though he desires it and will not let it go, but holds it in his mouth, yet his food in his stomach is changed to the venom of cobras within him.
He swallows riches, but will vomit them up; God will expel them from his belly . . . He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? . . . As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, so is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; in the midst of his days it will forsake him, and in the end he will be a fool . . . Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself . . . You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes . . . You lust and do not have . . ." (Job 20:12-15; Eccl 5:10-11; Jer 17:11; Hos 10:1; Hag 1:6; James 4:2).
By way of comparison, what the Lord offers is eternal. In fact, salvation, in a very real sense, involves deliverance from the temporal. Any religion, therefore, that accentuates the temporal and minimizes the eternal is to be aggressively shunned. It is lethal because dominated by Satan.
REJOICE OVER HER!
Now the scene is changed. We have seen the reaction of the kings, merchants, and shipmasters of the earth to the fall of Babylon. They all felt a keen loss in her removal. They wept. They wailed. They threw dust upon their heads. They felt something great and prosperous has fallen, and considered themselves poorer because of it. But this is not at all the heavenly response. The heavenly realms consider it no deprivation when powerless and lifeless religion falls to the ground. You will hear no weeping in heaven when a church is closed that had no Divine power within it. Jesus wept over Jerusalem when it rejected Him, but we have no record of Him weeping when it fell.
When it comes to lamentation, there is sorrow in heaven when "truth is fallen in the street" (Isa 59:14), or "because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land" (Hos 4:1). When there is none to "stand in the gap" (Ezek 22:30), or "truth is perished" (Jer 7:28), that is when the the heavenly minded are concerned. Sorrow is found among the godly when shepherds "feed themselves," and do not "feed the flocks" (Ezek 34:2). God, Christ, the Spirit, and all who are joined to them by faith express deep concern when a church leaves its "first love" (Rev 2:4), tolerates erroneous and damaging doctrines to be taught (Rev 2:20), or thrusts Jesus outside its confines by their lukewarmness (Rev 3:14-20). Wherever a form of godliness is embraced while rejecting "the power thereof" sighing and crying always erupt among the saints. But no tear is shed among the spiritual when what is false crumbles to the ground!
A Call From Heaven
Do not think for one moment that because believers prayed for their enemies they were indifferent to their wicked deeds. God will not let us forget what the world has done to His people until He has set things right. Behold the candor with which the heavenly voice speaks. "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"
The summons to "rejoice over her" is a call to exult and celebrate her fall. Here is an aspect of Divine life that is unfamiliar to our generation. There are some expressions in Scripture that indicate God is delighted over the fall of corruption even as He is over the establishment of righteousness. Israel was exposed to this aspect of the Divine nature in Deuteronomy 28:63. "And it shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you shall be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it." Such language is not to be taken lightly.
When the enemies of God's people were overthrown, rejoicing took place. " . . . the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies . . . my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies . . . " (2 Chron 20:27; 1 Sam 2:1). There is such a thing as holy rejoicing at the demise of the wicked. "He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury . . . The Lord laughs at him; For He sees his day is coming . . . And the righteous will see and fear, And will laugh at him, saying, Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, But trusted in the abundance of his riches, And was strong in his evil desire . . . But Thou, O LORD, dost laugh at them; Thou dost scoff at all the nations . . . I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes . . . " (Psa 2:4; 37:13; 52:6; 59;8).
How vividly this is shown when Satan was cast out of heaven-thrown down to the earth, together with his angels. The shout is then heard, "For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them" (Rev 12:12). Now Satan's false church is cast down, and the heavens are told to rejoice again. That means the presence of Babylon was not a source of joy in heaven, even among those no longer upon earth. Now, while the world laments, the heavens rejoice. Few texts confirm the sharp conflict between heaven and earth as much as this one.
Apostles and prophets
Apostles and Prophets are especially admonished to rejoice at the fall of Babylon. This fabrication was particularly an affront to them. In order for Babylon to flourish, the message of the Apostles and Prophets must be either repudiated or ignored. The church simply cannot stay on course unless it gives heed to the Apostles and Prophets. Thus it is written, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph 2:19-20). " . . . the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets" (Eph 3:4-5).
Faithfully, Apostles and Prophets pointed men away from the world and its curse to God and His blessing. Consistently, they witnessed to the temporality of this world, and the everlasting nature of God and His salvation. At the jeopardy of their own lives, they stood against the world, exhorting men to abandon worldly patterns of thought and life.
But Babylon rose with her deceptive ways. She seduced men-even kings and merchants-to drink from the world's well. In order to do this, the Apostles and Prophets had to be placed into the background. Now men of the world became prominent in the professed church. Its motivators, administrators, and philosophers supplanted the Apostles and Prophets. The economists and educators of the world suddenly obtained great worth in the professed church. But when all of this happened, the Apostles and Prophets, to whom God Almighty had revealed His purpose, were thrust into the background. Their words became strange, and their message was soon forgotten. Little wonder they are to rejoice when the corrupt church is brought down.
Hear the testimony of the Lord. The early church "continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine" (Acts 2:42). The holy Prophets are said to have given testimony of Jesus (something the world never does ), Acts 10:43. The "righteousness of God," now imputed to those who believe on Jesus, was witnessed by the Prophets (Rom 3:21). The purpose of God, kept secret from the foundation of the world, is now made known through the "Scriptures of the Prophets" (Rom 16:26). The Lord has placed "Apostles" and "Prophets" in the preeminent positions in Christ's body (1 Cor 12:28). The plan kept secret from prior ages was "revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Eph 3:5). We are told to remain mindful of "the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior" (2 Pet 3:2). Jude, the brother of our Lord, exhorted us to "remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 17).
The Lord will NOT honor a person, church, or movement that does not take these words seriously. When people substitute the words of mere men for those of the Apostles and Prophets, they have been deceived by Satan, and are embarking on a course of doom. Their neglect of the Apostles and Prophets will not be overlooked by the Lord.
Thus the Apostles and Prophets are seen as being vindicated by the fall of Babylon. These godly men, out of the body, yet conscious and able to respond, are told, "God has avenged you on her!" Like the souls under the altar (Rev 6:9-10), they have an acute awareness of their cause. They have left the body and the earth, yet they are alive.
How vital was their message-so much so that God almighty avenged them by overthrowing Babylon the great. The prophets before Christ foretold the Messiah, the New Covenant, and the remission of sins. Apostles and Prophets after Christ declared the Gospel, the imputation of righteousness, and the coming of the Lord. They expounded justification and the glories to come. But their message has been nearly erased from the minds of men by spiritual Babylon.
Men teach everything from dietary habits to the keeping of Old Covenant feast days from the Prophets. They probe in them for insight into political activity in the latter days, and forget they primarily spoke of "the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1 Pet 1:11). The message of the Apostles is thrust into the background in favor of church patterns, evangelistic secrets, and family values. The indispensable doctrine of the Apostles is thus distorted so it will supposedly fit into an earthly agenda.
The percentage of church members possessing any commendable understanding of the Apostles and Prophets is extremely small. A level of doctrinal ignorance exists that cannot, under any circumstances, be justified. And why so? It is the contemptible aftermath of Babylon the great. She has robbed the world of the only living message it ever received. When she is overthrown, there will be no sadness among those holy Apostles and Prophets. They will rejoice over her demise.
VIOLENTLY THROWN DOWN
For some, such an extended text is most unpleasant. They had rather not hear about the overthrow of something deemed wicked by God. And, indeed, under normal circumstances, this is not an altogether wrong reaction. Ordinarily, it is better to hear the Gospel and the exceeding great and precious promises made to those who embrace the Son. However, because of the significance and extent of spiritual Babylon, considerable time is devoted to its fall. It represents Satan's most aggressive effort to drown the church. It has also extended over the longest period of time, and had the most far-reaching influence. There is scarcely a place in the world or a time in history when Babylon has not dominated the Christian world. Though largely unrecognized among men, all of heaven is acutely aware of the circumstance. Departed Apostles and Prophets, together with millions of martyred saints, know of the corruption extant in the religious world. Also, believers everywhere sense the presence of doctrinal corruption, erroneous emphasis, and lifeless religion. All of them will profit when this message is perceived. The fall of an unusually influential system demands extensive Divine commentary-and that is what we have.
"Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore." Again, we are confronted with a "mighty angel." The last time we read of a "mighty angel," he put one foot on the sea, and another on the land. With his hand raised to heaven, he swore by the Lord that "time should be no longer" (10:1-6). This meant time would no longer be delayed, and what was determined would come to pass. This is the nature of the event before us. The fall of Babylon, determined by God, is now taking place. There is no way for it to be averted. A "mighty angel" is employed to emphasize the surety of the appointment. Angels never fail. Their announcements are never wrong. They are effective in what they do, and precise in what they say.
The action of the angel is significant. Picking up a boulder the size of a millstone, the angel cast it into the sea. The stone was large and formidable, signifying its seeming immovability. Linguists tell us this was a millstone that could only be turned by a beast of burden. It is the kind of "millstone" Jesus mentioned in Mark 9:42. "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."
The intent of this language is to affirm that only the Lord could overthrow Babylon. No amount of human effort could rid the world of it. The existence of corrupt religion is to men what a giant millstone is to a child. It cannot be reformed. It cannot be organized away. No rebellion, human reaction, or coordinated human effort can get rid of spiritual Babylon. Illuminated souls despise its pretension, deplore its influence, and reject its message. Yet it remains with us. But it will not always be this way. In the wings of Divine purpose a "mighty angel" waits. At the word of the Lord, he will hurl the "great city" out of existence.
The Language of Scripture
With care, we must avoid getting tangled up in this language. The Lord is using expressions introduced by Moses and the Prophets. This is a phrase denoting violent, complete., and irreversible overthrow. Thus the mighty Egyptian army was overthrown, sinking to the bottom of the sea "as a stone" (Ex 15:5). In the words of Nehemiah, the formidable Egyptian military forces were thrown "into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters" (Neh 9:11).
Of particular note is the prophecy of Jeremiah against ancient Babylon. This is doubtless the figure employed in our text. "Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates. Then you shall say, 'Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary'" (Jer 51:63-64). The words, "And they shall be weary," signify the depletion of all of Babylon's resources. It is like saying, she will wear out. The NASB reads, "they will become exhausted."
It is as though Babylon will muster all of her resources to remain, but be unable to do so. "Violence," in this case, means against the will of Babylon-in spite of her resistence and will to remain. It is another way of affirming a Divine overthrow. It is how the building of the tower of Babel was disrupted. It is how Sodom and Gomorrah were "overthrown." Egypt was overthrown in this manner, as well as Syria and Tyre.
Such overthrows do not produce a truce, but the extinction of the foe. God will not allow Babylon to remain. She cannot be reformed, nor will she be allowed to peacefully coexist with the bride of Christ. She is, in every sense, the enemy of God.
Found No More At All
Here again, the language of the prophets is employed. Of the wicked, it is written, "He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him" (Job 20:8-9). The Psalmist said of the troubling wicked, "I have seen the wicked in great power, And spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found" (Psa 37:35-36). To the wicked city of Tyre, the Lord said, "I will make you a terror, and you shall be no more; though you are sought for, you will never be found again, says the Lord GOD" (Ezek 26:21). Daniel prophesied of a wicked ruler that would be brought down by God. In describing the fall, he used the same language as that of our text. "Then he shall turn his face toward the fortress of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found" (Dan 11:19).
The Psalmist spoke precisely when he foretold the demise of the wicked and the exaltation of the righteous. "For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Psa 37:9-11). Notice, the fall of the wicked occasions the rise of the righteous.
The Godly Need to Know
Suffering saints need to hear about the demise of the wicked. Those oppressed by powerless and lifeless religion must hear of the time it will no longer exist. There is coming a time when the name of the Lord will no longer be defiled-when His blessed name will no more be affiliated with a form of godliness that denies the power thereof. While religious bigots boast of their organizations and spread themselves like a green bay tree, the righteous anticipate their demise.
If your heart is weighed down with the condition of the church, lift up your head. The condition is bad, but God is going to resolve it! A time is coming when the powerless church will be "found no more!" Like the devil who produced it, its time is running out. The Divine calendar has made no provision for it to continue indefinitely.
It makes little difference how committed Babylon is to remaining, it will be overthrown with violence. It will be pulled up by the roots, so to speak. As Jesus has said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Matt 15:13). Child of God, you can count on that. Let your faith take hold of it, and ask the Lord to help your unbelief. Babylon is NOT invincible! Organized religion does NOT hold the keys to your future! You are scheduled to inherit the earth and reign with Jesus. Babylon is scheduled to fall. It will not recover from its fall, and you will not fall from your exaltation.
Speak of the inheritance of the saints, and of the fall of their enemies. Tell about the triumph of the church, and the demise of those who oppose it. Extol the Lord who sustains you, and resist the devil who opposes you. Announce that the saints will judge the world, and that Babylon the great will fall. Resist the temptation to despair, and "hope until the end" (Heb 6:11). The warfare will soon be over!
THOROUGHLY THROWN DOWN
The Spirit will not let this matter rest. It is too critical to the survival of the saints. Babylon has been noted for such longevity believers are tempted to think it will always be here. But that is not the case. "The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore."
Again, this is the language of the prophets. It denotes the total absence of joy or a sense of safety. Isaiah spoke of overthrow in similar words. "The mirth of the tambourine ceases, The noise of the jubilant ends, The joy of the harp ceases" (Isa 24:8). In his denunciation of wayward Israel, the prophet Jeremiah, foretold of its overthrow. He used the same kind of language. "Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate" (Jer 7:34). Again he said, "Behold, I will cause to cease from this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride" (Jer 16:9). And again, "Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" (Jer 25:10-11).
Ezekiel spoke in the same way of the demise of Tyre. He language sets the tone for this section. "I will put an end to the sound of your songs, and the sound of your harps shall be heard no more" (Ezek 26:13).
Spiritual Babylon has lulled people into sleep, so they cannot imagine God capable of such a thing. But she has deceived the people. Just as surely as God will wipe away all tears from the faces of His saints, so He will obliterate joy and celebration among those who have corrupted His church. With great clarity and power, the Spirit affirms, "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1 Cor 3:17). This is no idle word! Those who have dared to inject the wisdom of the world into the body of Christ are destined to be destroyed! If any person promotes a worldly frame of mind among God's people, his doom is sure.
At this present time, there is joy and mirth in the false church. It boasts of its success. Its motivations and entertainers are well known and appear to be doing well. Careers have been crafted in the powerless church that have brought advantage to carnal people. Form without power has been seemingly shaped into a powerful force. But it is only temporary.
There is coming a time when not a single song or note of joy will rise from those who have embraced a form of godliness but denied its power. Such a monstrosity will no longer support the efforts of craftsmen and opportunists. The religious charlatan will disappear with the evil organization that supported him. No more joy! No more human ingenuity that supports and perpetuates what God hates! No more "sound of the millstone," where men are engaged in lifeless religious work.
"The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore." No more occupancy in Babylon! No one will choose to live there. It will be seen for what it is, will fall, and become repulsive to men. No more marriage between religion and the world. No more rejoicing over coalitions that did not require God, Christ, the Spirit, or the Word. No more progeny or offspring. No more perpetuation of powerless religion. No more! The contemplation of such freedom is glorious.
O, how the godly need to hear this. Satan will tempt the best of people to become tolerant of what God hates. Religious marketers will point to some speck of goodness they imagine is in Babylon, and call upon us to rejoice over it and embrace it. But we must not allow ourselves that indulgence. We do rejoice in the truth, and in any genuine advance of God's cause in the earth. But all of that is in spite of Babylon, and not because of it.
Have you seen the picture? It is most graphic. False religion will fall. It will not be able to carry on its relationship with the world any more. Kings will feel deprived of her presence, but be unable to bring it back. Merchants will sense great loss because of her demise, but will not be able to revive her. Even those who trade upon the open sea will lament her fall, yet be impotent to recover her. No one will buy her polluted goods any more. No longer will any one want what she offers. Not a single soul will gain an advantage from her. No joy will be found in her. No one will make their habitation there any longer.
God will surely judge any and every system of religion that rejected His sustaining power. It will fall and not rise again. Believers must tune their hearts to heaven, setting their affection there, and seeking the things that are there for them. There is no acceptable alternative to this. The Lord is leading His people out of this world and into the next.BABYLON AND SORCERY
"For your merchants were the great men of the earth . . . " Here the character of spiritual Babylon is again unfolded. Prior to this, we read of the "merchants of the earth." But now the Lord says they were really Babylon's merchants. These are the men that promote false religion. They are also the ones who profit from it. Were it not for Babylon the great, many a religious professional would be out of a job. Their careers are actually sustained by a system of thinking and living that God hates. They have embraced what is repulsive to Christ, and have marketed it throughout the world. Such are enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil 3:18).
Note what is said of these "merchants," or dealers of spiritual corruption. They are "the great men of the earth." Their names are not "written in heaven" (Lk 10:20), and they are NOT "great in the sight of the Lord" (Lk 1:15). They are NOT men "after God's own heart" like David (1 Sam 13:14). They are nor friends of God like Abraham (James 2:23). They did not have power with God and men like Jacob (Gen 32:28). They had no message like the prophets, nor were they sent like the Apostles. Unlike David, their greatness was not of God (2 Sam 22:36).
"Great men of the earth" are confined to the earth. They do not dwell in heavenly places. The ONLY place where they are of note is where God is neither known nor served. The world loves them because they are of its order. It recognizes their wisdom as valid, and applauds their ways as productive. Isaiah also referred to such despots. Doubtless, this language is taken from his prophecy against Tyre. "Whose merchants are princes, Whose traders are the honorable of the earth?" (Isa 23:8).
Remember, Babylon is an attempted merger of religion and the world. In such an effort, the world ALWAYS dominates. As soon as you attempt to join flesh and Spirit, the flesh assumes the throne. Thus corrupt religion has opened a door for worldly men to enter-and enter they did.
The Citadel of Corruption
" . . . or by your sorcery all the nations were deceived." The Lord has painted a most vivid picture of the worldly success of spiritual Babylon. Kings and merchants, individuals and nations, have been corrupted by her. It was supported by rulers and promoted by merchants.
How is it that Babylon has been so effective. Why has she been so influential and prosperous? Is it because of the gifted within her precincts? Can her success be traced to talented and insightful leaders among her constituency? Is her influence due to the development of expert methods and techniques? Ah, her merchants, great men of the earth, would have us believe so. Babylon parades her church planters, missions experts, financial gurus, and motivators before us as though they were some great discovery. They are invited to speak at their conferences, and their books and films are always before us. The "great harlot" points to her institutions and organizations to explain her phenomenal success. Babylon has marketed itself well.
The Lord, however, provides a different explanation. The influence of Babylon-false religion-is traced to SORCERY. It is not simply sorcery in general, but "YOUR sorcery." It differs from the witchcraft of the world of darkness, and the enchantment of the necromancer. This is sorcery that wears a Christian hat, and calls itself after the name of Jesus.
It is "sorcery" because it is produced by Satanic power. It is authored by the "rulers of the darkness of this world," against which believers "wrestle" (Eph 6:12). The teachings perpetrated by this sorcery are nothing less than "the doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:1). While some teach that demons no longer exist or exercise influence, John is told of a latter day when they would pervade the nominal church and invade the Christian community. Paul spoke of a great delusion that would appear in thelatter times. It would involve a despot "whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess 2:9).
I have often marveled at the success of false religion, but there is no need to do so. It is supported by supernatural power-wicked power, to be sure, yet supernatural. Sorcery is NOT a natural power, even though it operates through the flesh (Gal 5:20). We must not miss the gravity of this text. The powerful influence of spiritual Babylon is expressly said to be owing to its "sorcery." When, therefore, we willingly subject ourselves to its "merchants," we come under the influence of the devil.
There is an important aspect of truth to be seen here. The more closely we are in harmony with this world, the more extensively Satan will influence us. If we form an alliance with the world, we come into harmony with the devil, for he is the "god of this world." Do not flirt with the world! Avoid religious alliances that court the world's favor, and borrow from its wisdom!
This captivating influence is employed to deceive "all the nations." The deception moved people to embrace a false Christ and an erroneous gospel. It made sin appear attractive, and righteousness seem impossible. This deception so blurs the vision that the world is approached as though it were permanent, and heaven is avoided as though it were a myth.
Myriads of religious people have been seduced by the sorcery of Babylon. They speak of heaven as though it were temporary, and plan as though this world were permanent. They approach the Word of God as though it were irrelevant, and come to the wisdom of the world as though it were vital. They make no plans for eternity, yet plan extensively as though they were guaranteed a tomorrow. Church services are structured around the flesh, providing brief exposure to the things of God, and a message that is comfortable to the flesh.
And why do these conditions exist? The book of Revelation goes behind the scenes and tells us why. It is because of the existence of Babylon the great - the great harlot. It is owing to a system of religion that has been raised up of the devil, and it supported by a world of evil spirits. It is because men have been seduced into such foolish thinking.
These are the very reasons that have summoned the judgment of God against Babylon. It is simply inexcusable to treat the existence of powerless religion as though it were inevitable. Its fall is inevitable, not its existence! The people of God cannot to become attached to something God has cursed. They dare not build on a foundation God is going to destroy. They cannot afford to forge a relationship with something supported by the devil and promoted by sorcery!
I realize all of this seems quite strong. That is because it IS quite strong! It deals with a very vital issue: godless religion, and that is reprehensible to God!RESPONSIBLE FOR BLOODSHED
"And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth." Again, the Lord lays the responsibility for the slaughter of prophets and saints at door of false religion. We have read of this butchery before. In the pouring out of the bowls of judgment, God judged men "For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due" (16:6). Our first introduction to the false church as a harlot included these words, "I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (17:6). Later, in the nineteenth chapter, exultation continues over the judgement of Babylon. "For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her." (19:2).
I have said it before, but must say it again. When men side with the Lord's enemies, they become responsible for everything His enemies have done. Thus did Jesus say to His enemies, "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar" (Matt 23:34-35).
Cain, who committed the first religion sin, thought nothing of killing his own brother because his works were righteous (1 John 3:12). The Sanhedrin felt no restraint in stoning Stephen to death because he preached Jesus and refused to embrace their corrupt teaching (Acts 7:54-58). Throughout history, believers have acknowledged, "Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Psa 44:22; Rom 8:36). Knowing it was a threat to its own existence, corrupt religion has never hesitated to do whatever was required to stifle spiritual life.
Jesus warned His disciples of religious opposition. "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service" (John 16:2). Such people are like smoke in God's nose-people destined to be judged most harshly by Him. This, of course, is precisely what the Lord said through Isaiah. "Who say, 'Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day. Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will repay; Even repay into their bosom" (Isa 54:5-6).
And why did Babylon shed the blood of God's "prophets and saints?" Of all people, they were the most meek and helpful. They did no harm to their brethren or even their enemies. They obeyed the laws of the land for conscience sake, i.e., wherever their conscience would allow it. Their only offense was their UNworldly frame of mind. They simply were not of this world, and therefore the worldly church opposed them.
The church world is strewn with the victims of institutionalism. Precious souls have been cast upon the garbage dump of humanity for no other reason that they did not worship and serve the institution. It is no different with them than the three Hebrew children who would not bow down to the image they confronted. Whether by disenfranchisement or violent death, Babylon rids itself of those who will not bow to it. It makes little difference whether or not such people have faith, spiritual abilities, or deep devotion to the Lord. They are still seen as excess and needless baggage.
This is what brings out the real nature of Babylon the great-its maltreatment of the saints of God. Many of us have suffered from such treatment. Some, in despair, have compromised their convictions in order to gain the approval of powerless and lifeless religion. This is a serious error. If God will not overlook the sins of Babylon, He will not ignore those who court her approval!
And All that are Upon the Earth
The extent of the guilt of Babylon challenges our thinking. It underscores the magnitude of embracing lifeless religion. Not only is the "great city" guilty of the blood of the Prophets and saints, but "all who have been killed on the earth" (NIV). Similar words were addressed to wayward Israel by the prophet Jeremiah. "Also on your skirts is found the blood of the lives of the poor innocents" (Jer 2:34).
This is an awesome consideration! Those who side with the wicked will share in their responsibility. Those who take the side of the devil will share in his destiny. Those who partake of Babylon will partake of its curse.
The pervasiveness of Babylon's influence confirms the righteousness of its judgment. Aligned against the Lord and His Christ, she sided with the world, and joined with it. She corrupted the truth, exploited the saints, and opposed all who did not approve of her. God be praised she is destined to fall! Believers are anxious to bid her farewell!
Truth is not always palatable. Remember, when John "ate" the book of Divine destiny, he testified, "it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter" (Rev 10:9-10). Because the church left its first love, and lost the love of the truth, Babylon arose. That was bitter. Saints were opposed, maligned, and killed because of Babylon. That was bitter. John did not take great delight in relating these things to us. It was necessary, however, that it be done.
We must not be naive about the devil's assault upon the people of God. It is not always apparent, and it does not always come from the irreligious. Our greatest foes are those who are wolves in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt 7:15). Satan is no more dangerous than when he comes disguised as an angel of light, and his ministers are no more effective than when they come garbed as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor 11:14-15). Those who expect wickedness to be obvious and apparent will fall prey to delusion.
Let every one naming the name of Christ "depart from iniquity" (2 Tim 2:19). As in the days of Isaiah, "he who departs from evil makes himself a prey" (Isa 59:15). But the condition is only temporary. Jesus cannot lose, and Satan cannot win! The truth shall ultimately triumph, and the lie shall eventually be cast down. Corruption will be consumed, and the pure of heart will be established. You can count on it!