Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 18:20-19:3
Chapter 31

Starting with God's declaration to Satan in Genesis 3:15, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel," there is woven through the Bible, the thread of promise that good will triumph over evil.

Unfortunately, in this life, it is not often we see righteousness prevail over evil. More often than not, we watch helplessly as the transgressors seem to go unscathed, while the victims of their foul deeds suffer and frequently the victim becomes the criminal when he tries to defend himself from society's predators.

I read about a grocer in New York who was robbed at knife-point. As the thief ran for the door after taking money from the cash register, the proprietor pulled a gun and shot the bandit. Still clutching the stolen money, the man staggered outside the store and continued his bid to escape. Finally, after traveling several blocks from the store, the thief collapsed from loss of blood and died.

While I regret the man died, I also believe he brought it on himself by robbing the grocer. However, the district attorney did not see it this way. He charged the grocer with murder and the robber's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Their logic is that the grocer used excessive force because the thief was leaving and at the time he was shot posed no threat to the grocer.

The grocer, initially the victim of armed robbery, was in jeopardy of losing his freedom and all he has worked for, because he refused to let a bandit walk away with his money.

I suspect we would have a hard time convincing this grocer that good will triumph over evil and we should all ask ourselves, "What kind of a judicial system have we allowed to developed, when it becomes a crime to resist evil doings?"

Sadly, it is possible we are just now seeing the tip of the iceberg. If present trends continue, rampant immorality and legalized lawlessness are just around the corner in America. However, the promises of God are sure and there always comes a day when the absolute justice of God prevails, and unless America repents, that day is certain to come to our shores.

The fall of Babylon will be such a day. We know from previous study that God will destroy the harlot Babylon and the kings and merchants of the earth will mourn her passing. However, in sharp contrast to the mourning of the earth's kings and merchants, we read in Revelation 18:20,

I. An Announcement to Rejoice

"Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her."

While the fall of Babylon results in misery and mourning on the earth, the scene in heaven will be quite different. The Saints, Apostles and Prophets who were variously ostracized, hated, ridiculed, persecuted or killed by the harlot will rejoice at her demise.

Understand, there is no shading of wrong in their joy at seeing the harlot get what she deserves because they have not avenged themselves. Rather, the Lord will visit judgment upon Babylon in their behalf.

What we see here is a very serious truth. God will avenge His people. Jesus said in Mark 9:42, "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck, and he were cast into the sea."

It is better to die than to offend one of God's people because His judgment results in an eternity of torments. However, God's people should never demonstrate haughtiness toward those who offend them because Jesus also said in Luke 6:28, "Pray for them who despitefully use you."

An example of this is in Acts 7:59-60: "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."

Certainly, those who mistreat God's people will face His wrath if they remain unrepentant, but we are to pray that God will not hold them accountable and of course, the only way for them to be unaccountable is to place their faith in Christ as Savior.

It is never appropriate for God's people to desire the condemnation of another, no matter what their actions. We are to love all people, as God loves them, in spite of their sins.

The joy in heaven will not be because of the torments of men, but because of the destruction of the religious and political systems known as Babylon.

Next, John details,

II. An Illustration of Babylon's Destruction

"And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city, Babylon, be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all" (Revelation 18:21).

The angel told John that two things were demonstrated by the casting of the millstone into the sea. These are:

(1) Violence--The Greek word used here has to do with an assault or an attack; it is not accidental. As the angel intentionally threw the boulder into the sea, Babylon will intentionally be destroyed. Also, the casting of the boulder pictures more: It would hit the water suddenly and create a large splash, followed by a ripple effect over the surface of the water. This indicates the destruction of Babylon will be sudden, and there will be a great fury followed by a ripple effect as the kings and merchants of the earth feel the results of her demise.

(2) Total Destruction--Just as the millstone, when cast into the sea, would sink to the bottom and be lost forever, the City of Babylon will likewise be vanquished forever. As the stone could never rise from the bottom of the sea, Babylon can never rise from the ashes of her destruction.

Following this word picture of Babylon's destruction is a description of,

III. Babylon After Her Fall

"And the voice of harpers, and minstrels, and flute players, and trumpeteers shall be heard no more in thee" (Revelation 18:22).

The harp players who play the music of the aristocracy will be silent. The minstrels who play to the commoners on the streets will be quiet. The flute players who represent the mesmerizing enchantments of the religious leaders will be hushed and the trumpeters who sound their instruments at the appearance of royalty will be gone. The sounds of Babylon, represented by the various players and their music, will be heard no more. Silence is the sound of death.

"And no craftsman, of whatever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee" (Revelation 18:22).

Craftsmen, tradesmen, merchants and the like will no longer come to Babylon for there will be no one to buy the fruits of their labors.

"And the light of a lamp shall shine no more at all in thee" (Revelation 18:23).

The light that flickered in apostate Babylon and provided the facade of godliness will be extinguished. Babylon will be in darkness.

"And the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee" (Revelation 18:23).

The religious influence of Babylon will be over and people will no longer come to her for her religious services or blessing.

All the luxury, wealth and authority that Babylon enjoyed while riding the backs of the world's kingdoms will at long last be over. The angel's description leaves no doubt that Babylon is dead.

The mighty angel then concludes his description of the dead harlot by recounting the catalogue of Babylon's sins: "For thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth" (Revelation 18:23-24).

Clearly, Babylon, the harlot, the apostate religious system, achieves greatness not by proclaiming the Gospel of the Grace of God, but by making merchandise of people. This is not new. Apostates always think gain is godliness and their insatiable thirst for money and power is their motive. Their only use for the gospel is their own gain.

Even so, they are slick in their deceits and they will eventually deceive all nations, pulling them together under the leadership of the Antichrist. This deceit makes Babylon responsible for the blood of all the martyrs during the Tribulation. Therefore, the Lord will avenge his people on her.

IV. The Rejoicing in Heaven

"And after these things I heard a great voice of many people in heaven, saying, Hallelujah! Salvation and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord, our God; For true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great harlot, who did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Hallelujah! And her smoke rose up forever and ever" (Revelation 19:1-3).
This is the response to the invitation to rejoice in Revelation 18:20, and in this response we find some concluding insights concerning the judgment of Babylon.

While it is true our God is "Salvation and glory, and honor, and power," the entire account of Babylon's judgment demonstrates He will also judge sin in the world. Because His judgment is "true and righteous" the punishment will always fit the crime and so it will be with Babylon.

While the harlot will corrupt the whole earth with her apostasies and kill the people of the Lord, the sins of Babylon are no different from the sins of anyone who rejects the Lord and His Salvation.

Today, millions of people are involved in the apostate religions of Babylon. Consequently, they reject the Lord and castigate His people by ridiculing their beliefs in Biblical doctrines such as:

The verbal inspiration, and infallible, plenary content of the Scriptures;
The virgin birth and sinless perfection of Christ;
The deity of Jesus Christ;
The substitutionary death and resurrection of Christ for humanity's sins;
The depravity of man;
Salvation by grace through faith alone.
Because of their apostasy, like Babylon, their smoke will rise up forever, indicating the never ending burning they will reap for their sins. Meanwhile, the Saints in heaven will be praising God for His victory over the harlot, representing His victory over sin.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999