Material from chapter 18 is parenthetical and goes with chapters 16 and 19. As we come to the end of chapter 17 we see that the Antichrist and his henchmen (the ten kings under him) will destroy the one world false religious system (the Harlot) after it serves his purposes of uniting the world and demand that all mankind worship him as God (Rev. 17:16-18; Rev. 13; 2 Thess. 2:4). He will then move his headquarters from Rome (17:9) to rebuilt Babylon (18:2). The center of wealth has moved to the Mideast due to its rich oil reserves and rebuilt Babylon will be the new wall street of the world. Many commentators see the prophecies regarding ancient Babylon as unfulfilled which requires a new Babylon to be rebuilt for the events described here in chapter 18. According to Jer. 51:8 and Isaiah 13 (esp. v.9) Babylon was to be destroyed suddenly and completely and in "the day of the Lord" which always refers to God's final end-time judgment of the world. This was not true of ancient Babylon as it continued for many years after its political downfall. So Antichrist will destroy religious Babylon at the end of the first 3 ½ years and then God will destroy Antichrist's empire (political/economic Babylon) at the end of the second 3 ½ years with the second coming of Christ. Babylon is seen in Scripture as both a city (ancient & rebuilt Babylon) and a system (mystery Babylon) as man against God both religiously and politically/economically.
17:17 – This is such a telling verse in the midst of our concerns over our government. God uses Antichrist "to accomplish his (God's) purpose until God's words are fulfilled. " We see in Romans 13:1 that God inspired Paul to write these words when Nero was on the throne, who later had Paul executed: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God."
This doesn't mean that we shouldn't work for better government but it clearly means we are not to worry about what we consider "bad" government. GOD IS ON THE THRONE AND IN FULL CONTROL!
18: 1-3 – Here we see both the reason for God's judgment and the results of God's judgment of the alliance of evil government (Antichrist) and evil people (political and business leaders) that are ruled by lust and greed – "entrepreneurs made millions exploiting her." (The Message) And the city becomes a ghost town filled with demons and vultures (because of all the death); and not just Babylon but "the cities of the nations" all over the world (Rev. 16:19).
"Come out of her My people:" – Though the church will be Raptured before the Tribulation here the Lord speaks to the many Jews and Gentiles who come to Christ in the Tribulation (Rev. 7) and are sealed by His protection during this time of great persecution and death. Both the Old and New Testaments call God's people to be separate from the world system and Jesus tells us in John 17:14-16 to be in the world but not of the world. We are to be in the world to glorify God, witness to the lost, and work as a means of God's provision. But we are not to be of the world in the sense of pursuing material things more than God (Matt. 6:19-24). People can use business as an excuse not to have time for God – that's being of the world. "Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage-to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last (for all eternity), gaining life that is truly life." (1 Tim. 6: 17-19 – The Msg.) God will judge godless business dealings and that applies to believers too and unbelievers as seen here in Revelation. Scripture calls us to "judge ourselves rightly" so we will not have to be judged by God (See 1 Cor. 11:27-32). This means to confess our sins (call the sin what God calls it) and to turn from it (1 John 1:9). Although as believers all of our sins are forgiven when we are saved, unconfessed sins will be like wood, hay and straw (untransformed character) and be burned up at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-15). Yet if we repent and let God change us now it will redound to God's glory and our good for all eternity.
"Weeping and mourning" – vv. 8-11; 14-18 – The kings (world leaders) merchants and sea captains (shipping elite) will mourn over the loss of business. Though God delays his judgments (2 Peter 3:9) when it does come it can come suddenly. " In one hour your doom has come! Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine." Jesus told this parable: "Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. "Then he told them this story: "The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: 'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' Then he said, 'Here's what I'll do: I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all my grain and goods, and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well! You've got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!' Just then God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods-who gets it?' "That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God." (Luke 12: 16-21 The Msg.) We see a similar sudden judgment of King Belshazzar of Babylon in Daniel 5:22-31.
18:12-13 – In John's day the city of wealth was Rome and what began as luxuries for the rich became necessities not unlike our times today. Here we see the list of their "needs" – by contemporary categories: The Jewelry department: "gold, silver, precious stones and pearls"; The clothing department: "fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth"; Expensive furnishings: "every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble"; The perfume and cosmetic department: "cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense"; The liquor department: " wine and olive oil, The pastry and dessert department: "fine flour and wheat; The butcher shop: "cattle and sheep"; Transportation department: "horses and carriages"; The human resource department: " bodies (slaves per KJV) and souls of men." The rich certainly had slaves in John's day and many people today have sold their soul to the company store as the song goes. Even if they hate their job or God is calling them elsewhere they won't leave because they are captivated by maintaining a standard of living to which they have grown accustomed.
18:20 – Mourning or Rejoicing – "Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'" Each day people who love the world more than God are moving further and further away from their "treasure" and mourning, but people who love God more than the world are moving closer and closer to their "treasure" and rejoicing in the hope of being with the Savior face to face for ever and ever. "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Psalm 73:25)
The sound of silence – vv.22-25 – No music, no lights, no workman (craftsman) no industry/manufacturing, no marrying – Not only will the great cities of commerce be filled with demons and vultures they will be dark and deathly silent. There will be no sounds of music. The neon lights on Broadway will go out. The craftsmen will be out of work for no one will want their expensive handiwork. The sound of industry will cease its noisy hum. The joy and laughter of the bride and bridegroom will not be heard in the neighborhoods. But there will be music and marriage and rejoicing in heaven. Just in the past years the king of Soul, James Brown died, the king of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley died and recently the king of Pop, Michael Jackson died. But the King of kings and Lord of lords is alive and well and will soon come and marry His bride and we will sing of His love for ever.
"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready." (Rev. 19:6-7)
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION AND DISCUSSION
1) What is your main take away from today's message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life this week?
2) "For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled." (Rev. 17:17) "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." (Rom. 13:1) How do these verses speak to you in the light of your concern about our government today?
3) Are you worshiping God at work and through your work or worshiping your work? (See Col. 3:22-24) How can you come out of the world while remaining in the world? Be specific and share your answers.
4) Have any of the "departments" mentioned above become a necessity to you? I have heard that 95% of the people in the world do not have a car.
5) Edward Gibbon (April 27, 1737- January 16, 1794) was an English historian and Member of Parliament. His most important work was The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In this book Gibbon listed the five main reasons for the decline of Rome. 1) loss of respect for the family; 2) higher taxes; 3) love of pleasure; sinful sexual pleasure and entertainment as seen in the games (sports, circus, Hollywood, etc.); 4) building of great armaments; 5) decline of religion. How is the U.S.A. doing in each one of these categories and what does that mean?
6) Could you sing Habakkuk's song if our economy crashes? What is your source of joy?