And the kings of the world who committed adultery with her and enjoyed her great luxury will mourn for her as they see the smoke rising from her charred remains. They will stand at a distance, terrified by her great torment. They will cry out,
"How terrible, how terrible for you, O Babylon, you great city! In a single moment God's judgment came on you."
The merchants of the world will weep and mourn for her, for there is no one left to buy their goods. She bought great quantities of gold, silver, jewels, and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk, and scarlet cloth; things made of fragrant thyine wood, ivory goods, and objects made of expensive wood; and bronze, iron, and marble. She also bought cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle, sheep, horses, chariots, and bodies—that is, human slaves.
"The fancy things you loved so much are gone," they cry."All your luxuries and splendor are gone forever, never to be yours again."
The merchants who became wealthy by selling her these things will stand at a distance, terrified by her great torment. They will weep and cry out,
"How terrible, how terrible for that great city! She was clothed in finest purple and scarlet linens, decked out with gold and precious stones and pearls! In a single moment all the wealth of the city is gone!"
And all the captains of the merchant ships and their passengers and sailors and crews will stand at a distance. They will cry out as they watch the smoke ascend, and they will say, "Where is there another city as great as this?" And they will weep and throw dust on their heads to show their grief. And they will cry out,
"How terrible, how terrible for that great city! The ship owners became wealthy by transporting her great wealth on the seas. In a single moment it is all gone."
Rejoice over her fate, O heaven and people of God and apostles and prophets! For at last God has judged her for your sakes.
Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a huge millstone. He threw it into the ocean and shouted,
"Just like this, the great city Babylon will be thrown down with violence and will never be found again. The sound of harps, singers, flutes, and trumpets will never be heard in you again. No craftsmen and no trades will ever be found in you again. The sound of the mill will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The happy voices of brides and grooms will never be heard in you again. For your merchants were the greatest in the world, and you deceived the nations with your sorceries. In your streets flowed the blood of the prophets and of God's holy people and the blood of people slaughtered all over the world." (NLT)
Reaction of the World
In the previous lesson we saw that the kings of the earth committed spiritual adultery with the city. They are aware of what they are doing. Their need for power is most likely the root of their spiritual adultery. That lust for power has often been demonstrated in religions because religion can be a very powerful way of controlling people.
Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. (John 11:45-48 KJV)
Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:53 KJV)
This explains the reaction of the Jewish leaders after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. They saw Him as a threat to their power and had no idea what God’s power could really do for them. The kings represent those who are committing spiritual adultery to obtain power and prestige.
Today, they go to church strictly to see what they can get out of it. Many see church as a social network to advance themselves politically, economically, or socially. This can even be applied to the prosperity gospel that is being preached today. They worship God to get what they want, not do what God wants.
These kings are terrified. They know why this calamity has fallen on Babylon. It scares them because they have involved themselves in that spiritual adultery. Even though they admit that this is God’s judgment, it doesn’t scare them enough to do anything about their own spiritual condition.
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (Rev 14:11 KJV)
When they see the smoke rising from Babylon, they will be reminded that this is the fate that they are facing themselves. The smoke from the burning of the city will last a while, but the smoke from those who have worshiped the beast will rise forever. No wonder they are scared.
An interesting thing to note is that capitalism will always be around. Here, at the end of the age after the Antichrist has been running the show for almost seven years, we find capitalism clearly at work. At one time America was deathly afraid of communism. As time passed our fear grew less and when the Iron Curtain fell, we all but thought the battle against communism was over. If we had simply looked at these verses in Revelation we would have realized that capitalism would flourish right up to the end.
Capitalism may be Christians’ preferred economic system, but we need to remember it isn’t God’s chosen system. While God has told us some specifics about honesty regarding capitalism, such as using honest weights (Lev 19:36), He hasn’t told us that capitalism is His chosen economic system. It is the world’s system. It is a natural development of man living in a sinful world. Man has been under Satan’s influence (Eph 2:2) so any system of the world is by nature Satanic. All economic systems keep people preoccupied with their life styles and not thinking about Jesus or His economy.
Christianity functions well under every economic system. When we are honest and conduct our businesses with godly principles, we do well under capitalism. If we are in a socialistic or communistic system, we consider that we are helping others and we still do our work unto the Lord (Col 3:17). We don’t slack off because the government takes our wealth and distributes it to others, even those who aren’t working as hard as we are.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:19-21 RSV)
Our economic system doesn’t depend on the world’s riches or definition of wealth. We are not citizens of this world, but of heaven. Our eventual reward far outweighs whatever measly accumulation we can get here on earth, whether it is one more chicken or one more billion dollars (2 Cor 4:16-18). God’s economic system is heavenomics. It’s all about our getting there and the rewards we will have there.
You may quote the parable of the talents to justify that capitalism was taught by Jesus (Matt 25:14-30). OK, just look at the end of the parable. This isn’t about how to make money or endorsing an economic system, it is about being judged and rewarded in eternity for faithfulness to the Master.
Better yet, take a look at the parable of laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20:1-16). Some worked all day for one denarius and others worked only an hour for the same wage. Is this an endorsement of communism or socialism? Absolutely not, it is the same teaching about judgment and rewards. When we have come to Jesus for salvation in the last hour of our life or the first, we will each receive salvation.
When people travel for business, they take products from one part of the world to another. But not only do they take products but they also take part of their culture. Nehemiah saw that the merchants coming into Jerusalem on the Sabbath were bringing their culture and sabotaging the Law that God had given (Neh 13:19-21). The Sabbath was the one day they were forbidden by the Law to trade. In our generation we have seen the same thing happen. When I was a kid, very few stores were open on Sunday. There was no distraction, you either went to church or not. Shopping was not an option. But there were a few stores open and slowly more and more.
I am not saying that we sin if we work on Sunday or even shop. But merchants sell products and change our ideas at the same time with constant advertising. We are lured away from our focus on the Lord by things of the earth.
And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. (Gen 37:25 KJV)
The caravan to Egypt was carrying spices to cover up the real condition of food. They carried balm to anoint the dead for burial, to give a false hope in a life after death. Myrrh was used to deaden the pain of the day, to drug and keep reality away. They took Joseph as a slave. Sinful man has been doing the same thing for thousands of years and will continue until the end.
The Babylonian merchants take the bodies and souls of men. This implies several things. Literally they are active in a slave trade. Today, Saudi Arabians have their own version of slave trade. They go to third world nations and hire people to do their dirty work. The workers are segregated from the Arab society and live in their own camps. However this doesn’t compare at all to the blatant slave trade of Christians in Sudan.
But it could also mean more. It could be people selling their bodies to strive for riches or worse, selling others in the very active sex trade. What does it profit a person to gain the world and lose his soul? Prostitution and child pornography comes to mind because of the awful consequences that it has on the spiritual side of people.
Then symbolically, it is a summary of what the real intent of it all is, to trap people by riches and keep them away from God.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim 6:9-10)
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David. (Isa 55:1-3 NASB)
The Lord is our Merchant. When we come to Him He provides for us what really counts: eternal peace with Him. These cost us nothing in terms of earthly riches. They are given freely to anyone who will listen to Jesus.
When we have this perspective we can face the world and even become merchants. But when we go, our attitude must be as in James 4:15 “if it is the Lord’s will.” When we go out to sell our ware, so to speak, we must carry a Christian culture based on Jesus, not absorb the world’s way based on Satan. When we do that, we are working in God’s economy.
Look back again at Matthew 6:19-21. Think about it. Every time we invest a dollar, don’t we want to get the greatest return on our investment? Where are you investing your time, energy, and money? Is it getting a heavenly return or is it all for the temporal things that will one day become dust? How often do we forget these familiar verses and fall into the world’s investment patterns?
But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. (Jonah 1:4-5 KJV)
Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them. (Jonah 1:13 KJV)
Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows. (Jonah 1:16 KJV)
Sailors, of all people, should be dependent upon the Lord since they are always close to death. They make their money by taking the risk others are not willing to take. But they are usually self-sufficient. They always look to their own resources to get themselves out of trouble. They make money only by delivering cargo to its destination, but they are practical and will toss it when needed to save their ship and their own lives. In this case they were told precisely what they should do – throw Jonah into the sea –instead they try their own methods. They are typical of those who turn to God only as the last resort. Unfortunately their vows seldom last beyond the time it takes them to get to safety. God does rescue a few in this manner, but they are the exception.
In Acts 27:9, 10, 18, 21-26, 31, 42-44 the sailors follow the same kind of thought processes before Paul’s shipwreck. They refuse the advice of someone who knows the heart of God. After that, they are working on their own devices. The cargo went first, and then they were willing to listen to Paul. When they got near land, the sailors were back to following their own schemes again. Only the Lord working through the centurion saved their lives and Paul’s.
The sailors’ situation is very sad. They know about God, but they don’t know Him. They know because of the life they lead; they “trust” Him to get them from one place to another. They know that He disapproves of putting things ahead of their devotion to Him. But they only turn in desperation and when the concern is passed, they ignore Him again. This is why they can mourn for the city in one breath and then make a prophetic statement in the next. They know that the judgment is from the Lord, and they know why. They state that others should rejoice, but they do not include themselves. These are the ones that admire true faith in others, but are unwilling to join in with that faith. It would require them to give up adventure, riches, and the excitement of their lives. These are the only ones who are not terrified by the action of God. It is doubly sad because they know their state and will do nothing about it.
This can be taken two ways. One is that they recognize precisely what is going on and know in their hearts that this is the proper response of the saints. The other is that it is a bitter tongue-in-cheek expression of their hatred of God. It is like unbelievers who call Christians righteous as well as other things in a derogatory manner. Early believers were called “little Christs,” which is where the word Christian comes from. It wasn’t meant as a complement. These insults come because the saint’s life exposes the wrong in the sinner’s life. It gives unbelievers mixed feelings because they really know the problem is their own separation from God, but they want to blame it on someone else. So in this case it may not be the intent of the sailors to praise God, but it is to His praise, because it is the truth.
They are unwilling to go to the aid of those who have influenced and helped them. It could be justified in the sense that the destruction is so complete that there is nothing that they could do, but I sense that is not the primary reason they stand back. I think it is because they have developed a keen sense of self-preservation. They have no loyalty to their cause. They enjoy the wealth, but when it comes down to the very last; they are not willing to risk their lives for the system that has made them rich.
For Christians it is just the opposite; we are first asked to give up our lives.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt 10:39 ESV)
And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matt 10:42 ESV)
These verses would also indicate that we are not to ignore those in trouble but to help them, even if it is only giving a cold cup of water. This is the contrast we are to be with the world. The world isn’t even loyal to its own kind. We are to be even more loyal to other Christians. Jesus said it best.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 KJV)
Not only did He say it, but He also demonstrated it.
The kings and the merchants are terrified at the torment. This is one of the reasons they stand far off. It reminds me that many people involved in incorrect sexual behavior have a fear of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. If they were not involved, they would not fear it. Others fear it for their children, but they teach their children about “safe sex” instead of abstinence and the context for sexual responsibility in a monogamous marriage of a man and a woman. In the same way, the kings and merchants have terror because they were involved with Babylon and know they should also have been tormented and will eventually face torment forever.
This fear of consequences but continuing in sin isn’t just about sexual behavior. It can be seen with other sins of addictions. Smoking, drinking, and drugs all carry horrific consequences but they are continued when most people know that they will eventually have to pay the penalty.
They are shocked at the quickness of destruction of the city. All say that it occurs in one hour.
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (2 Peter 3:3-4 KJV)
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8 KJV)
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which 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. (2 Peter 3:10 KJV)
All these people were scoffers before but now they are not. They had the impression that since God’s punishment did not come and zap them at the beginning of their sinful, decadent ways, He wouldn’t do it at all. We think that verses 3 and 4 simply means that many years will go by and it is nothing to the Lord, but we forget that it does mean something to Him. He will lump a thousand years of destruction and punishment into one day. No wonder they are shocked by the quickness. Earlier it said the sins of the city were piled high. It took years to make that pile, yet the Lord will punish them in a moment. It will catch them unaware, just like a thief would. They have so blinded themselves that they will no longer see it coming. They will have resisted repentance to the point of never being able to repent. Their shock at the suddenness is an expression of their unbelief. It is a refusal to admit the truth of why the city is destroyed.
Each of these mourns when they see the destruction. In the Bible there are different kinds of mourning. Joseph and all Egypt mourned for seventy days when Jacob died (Gen 50:1-3). They missed him and wanted to express the loneliness that they would feel at not seeing him anymore. They would no longer have fellowship with him or have his guidance. In Mic 1:8-16 we can see God telling His people to mourn over the destruction of Jerusalem. This is an intense display of emotion. But the reason for mourning is what happens to people. A great amount of it is because of sorrow over sin and the consequence it has inflicted on the people.
These are the kinds of mourning that are acceptable and even commanded by God. He has made us a people of emotions. However, neither of these kinds of mourning is over the loss of property, riches, or opportunity for sin. Yet this is exactly the reason that these people are mourning the loss of Babylon. No one is concerned about the human destruction or the fact he will no longer see loved ones. All are concerned for the loss of things and mostly for the loss of the opportunity to sin.
Finality of the Judgment
Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. (Luke 17:1-4 KJV)
Even as a Christian, we need to be careful. We know that the world system will always be around to cause people to sin, even Christians. But God is going to judge that world system as He has shown in Revelation 18. What could possibly be worse than being at the bottom of the sea? I can’t imagine what it would be, but it certainly suggests that some punishments in hell will be worse than others. But the warning isn’t just for unbelievers. We can sin and in doing so, we can cause another to sin.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus doesn’t really elaborate on this? Instead He starts talking about repentance and what our attitude should be to the one who asks forgiveness. Obviously, we need to approach a fellow believer who is causing others to sin and warn him; however, we also need to be obedient to forgive him when he repents. After all, we could be in the same situation someday. We must assume that when a brother repents, it is true. We are not given an option; we are to forgive him. This can bring up the whole issue of how we know that he is truly repentant. Jesus simply says that if he comes and says that he repents, we are to accept that and forgive him.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Eph 4:32 KJV)
We continually sin, and continually come to God saying we repent, and then we sin some more. Seventy times seven, He has and is forgiving us in the same way He is asking us to forgive others.
When Jesus talked about children and brothers, He was talking about those who belong to Him. He was not talking about the people of the world. When an unbeliever comes to us and asks for forgiveness, we need to forgive Him, because God forgave us. But the idea of believing them about repentance is another story. I don’t think Jesus is telling us to open ourselves up to further abuse by anyone. On the other hand, we are to love even our enemies. We are to act in such a way that we would not hinder someone coming to Christ.
For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:15-16 NIV)
When we are dealing with unbelievers, we should have a higher motivation than serving ourselves. This is not easy whether we are dealing with Christians or others.
Music is associated with joy and pleasure. Yet it will not be heard again in Babylon. Throughout the Psalms, we are told to use music to praise and worship God. In Babylon it has been perverted. The music, instead of being associated with praising God, is used for selfish pleasures.
Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a sound of war in the camp." But he said, "It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear." (Ex 32:17-18 NASU)
Moses could tell the difference between music that was honoring God and music that was being used for selfish pleasure. A measure of where a Christian is at in his walk with the Lord is the kind of music he seeks.
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Eph 5:19-20 KJV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Col 3:16 KJV)
Paul told us that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are a natural thing to sing in our hearts. We use them to show the condition of our heart in worship and to lift others up. A significant part of the world’s culture is in its music. It teaches and reinforces the values of the culture. What do you want taught and reinforced in your life?
In Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve work to do. In Babylon the work is totally for the furtherance of self, or even worse, the furtherance of the kingdom of Satan. If the significance of a person is found in the work that he does, according to the world system, then a city or culture like Babylon must surely pride itself on the trade and work that goes on within it. The Lord is certainly sending a clear message here. All work will cease. No workers will be found. The worldly measure of its success will be taken completely away.
If we are striving for things of the world, our eventual outcome is death. In death all worldly significance is lost. We can no longer have position, wealth, power, or anything that once satisfied or attempted to satisfy a person. Security is lost. We need to have higher goals for our work than the world does.
We are the bride of Christ and Jesus is the bridegroom. We are to be light of the world and not hid our light under a basket. When Babylon is destroyed, there will be no witnesses to tell of God’s mighty salvation. There will be no opportunities to hear the Gospel and be saved. God’s people have been told to come out of Babylon. If it is taken to be literal, then there will not be a Christian witness before or after the destruction. Since we are to be salt of the earth, then the absence of Christians in any location would certainly allow more evils to exist than with us mingled among them.
The merchants at the end of the chapter are different from the ones who stood at a distance. The former were merchants of the earth. These are the merchants of Babylon. They are the ones who were selling the concepts of humanism, evolution, and then blatant occultic religion. In our western civilization we are starting to see what has been true for centuries in other nations. The great men, the educated men are starting to embrace weird religions. Ramtha and others are just examples that are starting in the West. Missionaries to Buddhist nations are surprised when they first encounter well-dressed, educated people stopping to bow and pray at idols. We have always relegated that to the past. Babylon will take all of these different forms of idolatry and work them into a single religion that the world will embrace. Her merchants will spread it to all of the nations.
The sorceries are nothing other than the veil that Satan puts over the unsaved. It is the desire to have spirituality without acknowledging responsibility to God. Satan loves it because people are already his slaves. He only has to do enough to keep them blinded. He only has to be a bird taking away the seed. But he is not content with that, he wants more, he wants to usurp God, and so he seeks ways to spread the magic.
Eventually the result of all satanic religions is to persecute God’s people, whether Old Testament saints or Christians. The Lord ties this all the way back to Cane and Abel when He says the blood of all who have been slain was found in Babylon. Yes, the blood of the prophets is on the hands of this religious system that denies God.
Cane killed Abel because Abel found favor in God’s eyes and offered an acceptable sacrifice (Heb 11:4). Cane wanted his own method of reaching God. The result was the first family squabble over religion. The “church leaders” of the Old Testament didn’t like what the prophets of God said, so they killed them. The New Testament leaders didn’t like what Jesus was saying about God because it threatened their position. So they killed Him.
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)
Jesus said that He came to bring a sword, to turn people against each other when He quoted from Micah 7:6. It is His desire that all would come to Him, but He knows that by the very fact that some are under this spell of Satan, they will turn in violence against even relatives who embrace Jesus. It is sad, but true.
The destruction of Babylon is the first step in correcting the problems caused by the world system led by Satan. Jesus’ return in the next chapter is step two.
Let us be careful not to be tricked by the world when we decide what is most important to us. Let us look completely to Jesus and His word.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:2 KJV)