Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 18:9-19
Chapter 30

Thus far in the parenthetic beginning with Revelation 17:1, the focus has been on the fall of the religious system known as Babylon. She is identified as the great harlot riding the kingdoms of the earth in pursuit of wealth and power while claiming to serve and worship the Lord God.

John was invited to witness in spirit, the fall of Babylon, and wrote about the event in Revelation 17:16. According to John's eyewitness account, the kings thatBabylon influenced to align with the Antichrist and put him in power will be used by the Lord to destroy her.

The fall of religious Babylon will open the door for the Antichrist to proclaim himself god, and demand that all the world worship him. We know from Revelation 13, he will kill those who refuse to worship his image. To identifythose who refuse to worship him, he will cause everyone who wishes to buy or sell to receive his mark.

Though separated in our study for ease of understanding, the fall of religious Babylon is also the fall of political Babylon. The same Antichrist who overthrows the religious system of the world to proclaim himself god, will dominate the political system and control who buys and sells, who eats and does not eat, who lives and dies.

In Revelation 18:9-19 John writes about the effects, the fall of the political system known as Babylon will have. We want to look first at,

I. The Effect on Government Rulers

"And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come" (Revelation 18:9-10).
Here, John tells us first how the kings of the earth will be affected by the fall of Babylon. They are identified as those, "Who have committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her."

Throughout history, government rulers have embraced religious systems as a means to placate or motivate the people under their dominion. Using tactics such as threats of excommunication and eternal condemnation, religious leaders have kept civil unrest under control and have provided soldiers for the expansion of empires, by promising heavenly rewards for willing participants.

Potentates quickly learned that subjects, free or enslaved, were more easily managed when allowed to engage in religious activity. Even in our own country during the awful days of slavery, owners found it beneficial to allow their slaves to participate in religion. I believe it was Karl Marx who summed up this phenomenon by saying, "Religion is the opiate of the people."

The trade-off in this arrangement is the religious leaders are treated as royalty or allowed special privileges at the expense of the people. It is a marriage that has worked for centuries. Under the guise of godliness, religious leaders have kept the masses under control and thereby allowed themselves and the governments embracing them, to live luxuriously on the backs of the people under their rule.

No wonder, the kings of the earth will bewail and lament for Babylon. Even so, notice, they do not care enough to intercede in her behalf. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will "stand far off out of fear of her torment."

This indicates they will not miss the harlot. Rather, they will miss the luxury their fornication with her afforded them, but at the same time they will be careful to keep their distance during her judgment, so they do not partake of her torments.

Babylon that great city within the city, that great government within the government, that great kingdom within the kingdom, that co-reigned with all the kings of the earth will be abandoned by those kings, in her time of judgment.

The religious system the kings of the earth depended upon for centuries, to control their subjects and amass their wealth will be destroyed in the span of one hour as Babylon and all her influence will be purged from the earth, at the hands of those she placed in power.

II. The Economic Effect

John plainly states in Revelation 18:11, the reason the merchants will hate to see the fall of Babylon. "And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more." Clearly, their only interest in Babylon is economic and their allegiance to her has a price tag attached.

The extent to which Babylon indulged herself and the kings who embraced her is indicated by the listing of merchandise, in Revelation 18:12-13, for which she had an appetite:

(1) "The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and pearls." One of the recognized indicators of wealth is the accrual of precious metals and gems, normally in the form of jewelry. These are things that come out of excess, not out of necessity and are recognized as marks of success in the world.

Several weeks ago while viewing a video tape of Gospel music artists, one of the people watching commented on the size and abundance of jewelry worn by the performers. The unspoken question behind this observation was perhaps, "Is this why they sing Gospel Music, so they can wear expensive jewelry?"

Similar questions come to mind concerning the ministries of so many:
"Is this why he preaches, so he can gild the buildings on his campus with gold?"
"Is this why he claims to be God's messenger, so he can build a multi-million dollar amusement park and vacation resort?"
"Is this why he promises to pray for people, so they will send him millions of dollars each week and he can live a lifestyle fit for a king?"

Apostates have always gauged their success by the accrual of wealth while they blatantly tell their followers their excesses are God's blessing on their ministries. This is in contrast to our Lord's personal ministry on this earth which was not marked by the accrual of wealth. On the contrary, His was a ministry of sacrifice. Matthew 8:20 says, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head."

Surely, the Lord intents for His ministers to live out of the tithes and offerings of His people, but there is a difference in making a living and accruing a fortune at the expense of the people. Babylon has always had an appetite for the accrual of wealth and has always flaunted that wealth, in the name of godliness.

(2) "Fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet." Fine linen and silk, in regal colors of purple and scarlet, are the fabrics from which the garments of royalty were made in John's day. Anyone wearing these colors and fabrics was instantly recognized as belonging to the ruling class.

Apostates have always desired the clothing of royalty instead of the clothing of righteousness. Throughout history they always align with the kings of the earth rather than with the King of Glory.

How different these garments from the clothing of John the Baptist who wore Camel's hair and how different the apostates' message of tolerance and John the Baptist's message of repentance.

(3) "Thyine wood, and all kinds of vessels of ivory, and all kinds of vessels of most precious wood, and of bronze, and iron, and marble." Babylon's penchant for the luxury of royal apparel is matched by the richness of furnishings, in the homes of her leaders.

While the people she presumed to reign over used clay pots and furniture of rough-hewn wood the apostates used furnishings made from the finest materials available. Ivory, precious wood, bronze, iron and marble, were all scarce and expensive in John's time and they indicate the splendor in which Babylon lived.

Investigations of televangelists have discovered many of them live in mega-bucks homes and at the same time own vacation resort properties in some of the world's most exotic places. I wonder how some of these people can sleep at night after taking money from people in search of God's blessing, who can ill afford to give it. How often do these religious harlots promise to deliver answers to prayer for a price and then use the money for personal pleasures without another thought, or prayer?

(4) "Cinnamon, and incense, and ointments, and frankincense." These are expensive perfumes and spices. Their fragrances are intended to represent the frivolities that accompany a life of luxury. The smell of hard work will never surround the apostates for they do not labor in the truths of God's Word.

(5) "Wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat." Sumptuous fare, the finest in gourmet foods is the focus of this description.

The Bible tells us manna, cakes of oil and meal, locusts, and wild honey are some of the foods that sustained the people and prophets of God. These are sufficient because the Scripture is clear, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

In contrast, the Apostates are not content with the food of prophets because they do not care to live on the Word of God. Their lives and purposes are devoted to sumptuous fare. In the words of Asaph in Psalm 73:7, "Their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than heart could wish."

(6) "Cattle, and sheep." Herds of cattle and flocks of sheep have long been indicators of investment wealth. As the cattle gain weight and reproduce the investment grows, as the sheep reproduce and grow hair, the investment multiplies. These can be considered the equivalent of modern-day stocks and bonds.

While the people struggle to make ends meet, the harlot is indifferent to their plight and invests her surplus in cattle and sheep. Instead of investing in the lives of people, the Apostates are only concerned about investing in their own futures.

(7) "Horses and chariots and slaves, and souls of men." Horses and chariots were the ultimate weapons of war, in the days of hand to hand combat. The battle was normally won by the army with the most horses and chariots.

The harlot has used military might throughout the centuries to enslave and own the very souls of men. In our own time, the wars in Ireland, Bosnia, Persia are spurred by religious factions desiring to expand their territories. Surely, Babylon will use any means, including military might, to expand her wealth and power.

In Revelation 18:14, John tells us that along with the aforementioned things, all else Babylon desires will be removed. "And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and sumptuous are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all."

As the kings who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with Babylon, the merchants will mourn her passing, and as the kings, they will stand afar off, so as not to be caught in her judgment. Also, as the kings, they will not miss the harlot, but they will miss the luxury and splendor their association with Babylon brought them. Look at Revelation 18:15-17a.

"The merchants of these things, who were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and bedecked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! For in one hour so great riches are come to nothing."
Not only will the merchants on land mourn the passing of Babylon, those who make their living in shipping on the high seas, will also mourn her, according to Revelation 18:17b-19.
"And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, and cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city? And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, in which were made rich all that had ship in the sea by reason of her costliness! For in one hour is she made desolate."
As the merchants and kings, those involved in shipping will also stand afar off and mourn the death of Babylon. They too will weep, not for the death of the harlot but because of the loss of revenue generated by her insatiable appetite. The reference to loss of shipping revenues must indicate the loss of international commerce that will follow the fall of Babylon.

Revelation 18:11-19, details the decline of commerce both nationally and internationally that will occur following the fall of Babylon. Free trade that existed and flourished under the apostate religious system will cease under the reign of the Antichrist when only those who take his mark and worship him will have the privilege of buying or selling.

The fall of Babylon is just the beginning of misery for those who partake of her fornications and look to her for sustenance. The fall of Babylon will mark the beginning of the unbridled, evil reign of the Antichrist. There will be no religious tolerance when the Antichrist proclaims himself god, and demands that all worship him. There will be no free trade or commerce because the Antichrist will demand that everyone take his mark to buy or sell.

Likewise, there will be no relief from the plagues God will rain down on unrepentant humanity during this period known as the Great Tribulation.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
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