Revelation 18-19
(Fate of Babylon)
December 30th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

- Revelation 19:11-12 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

These two chapters continue the story of the Apostle John's vision of heaven and a final battle on earth. He has seen Jesus remove seven seals and has witnessed a series of plagues sent against the non-believers. Then in chapter 17, the scene had shifted to an image of a woman called Babylon. Today's readings describe the fate of this woman. The events in these chapters may not necessarily be in chronological order, but are presented more like the poetic form of earlier prophets.

In chapter 18 a voice from heaven warns his people to leave Babylon before it’s too late. The voice continues by saying that all the merchants who traded with Babylon will weep when she is gone – not because they miss her for altruistic reasons, but because they will not have anyone to whom they can sell their goods. They will have lost their biggest customer, explains the voice from heaven:

    “The traders will cry and carry on because the bottom dropped out of business, no more market for their goods: gold, silver, precious gems, pearls; fabrics of fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet; perfumed wood and vessels of ivory, precious woods, bronze, iron, and marble; cinnamon and spice, incense, myrrh, and frankincense; wine and oil, flour and wheat; cattle, sheep, horses, and chariots. And slaves—their terrible traffic in human lives."

    - Revelation 18:11-13 (MSG)

Sea-going merchants will keep their distance and also mourn their lost earnings. But the heavens will rejoice – not in a spirit of vengeance, but because justice has been served. Babylon will be brought to ruin in a very short time period. One hour is all it will take for her to be destroyed. It will disappear as quickly as it takes for a millstone to sink into the sea.

The rejoicing resumes in chapter 19 as the chorus in heaven shouts “Hallelujah” because of the justice that has been served and because there is a remnant of faithful people who have kept themselves clean (referred to as the bride of the Lamb) and are invited to the wedding supper.

Then the scene shifts abruptly from the wedding feast to heaven where there is a white horse leading the armies of heaven in preparation for battle against the beast and the kings of the earth. The beast and his false prophet were captured and thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur and those who followed them were all killed. The birds of the earth were invited to feast on the carnage.

Reflection and Application

John’s contemporaries were tempted to conform to either the prevailing culture of the Roman Empire and/or the rules and regulations of the unconverted Jews. If they conformed they could avoid persecution. But John sought to encourage them to persist in their faith, even if it looked like the other side seemed invulnerable. We may also be tempted to conform to the world's standards in order to fit in, avoid uncomfortable situations, and, in extreme cases, avert persecution, which is the currently the case in parts of Syria and Iraq controlled by Islamic Terrorists. If John were alive today, he would also encourage us to persevere in our faith. His written words fulfill the same goal as they continue to encourage us and future generations.

The city titled Babylon in Revelation is assumed by most experts to represent Rome, which was the center of commerce and ultimate source of persecution for the people in John's initial audience. When he tells people to depart from Babylon he means that we should separate from the sin of the Romans and others, not necessarily separate ourselves geographically:

    Then I heard another voice from heaven say:
    “Depart from her, my people,
    so as not to take part in her sins
    and receive a share in her plagues

    - Revelation 18:4 (NAB)

The metaphors of brides for loyal people versus harlots for non-believers is consistent with language that we found (and will find) in the Old Testament (e.g. Ezekiel 16 and Hosea 5). For instance, the image of bride and groom represents the depth of commitment that God expected from his people. His first Commandment was that the people would “have no god before me.” Those who were loyal were like his bride, committed in faithfulness. Those that were unfaithful breached his trust as badly as a person who is unfaithful to their spouse or offers their most precious gift for money. In Ezekiel 16, God had described all the blessing he had provided for his people over the generations, raising them as infants, feeding them and caring for them. In return, he expects our worship and gratitude, but many people rejected him and re-gifted his gifts to false idols.

The scene of birds feasting on the defeated army is also reminiscent of Old Testament language, for example the fate prophesied for Gog in Ezekiel 39. The implication is that there was nobody left to bury the dead because the defeat was so complete. Furthermore, the soldiers in the losing army would lose their final dignity in death, as they would not receive a proper burial and would be subjected to the claws of unclean animals. Note that this army faced off against the One on the horse and his army, but were defeated solely by the One, who threw the beast and his false prophet into the lake of fire and killed the remainder with his sword. Which side do we want to be on?

What happens next? Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of Revelation and conclusion of the Christian Bible. You don’t want to miss this message.

In the meantime, join 3,000,000 other people who have enjoyed the gift of Michael W. Smith singing Rich Mullins' composition of "Awesome God." This song is a fitting tribute to the God who conquers all evil forces and is enjoyed by many people in many different forms. For example, the primary author of this Bible Study sings a variation of this song to himself when he runs solo. Also, the professed Christian and former professional football quarterback Tim Tebow is a fan of this song. He was caught singing it throughout one of the regular season games late in the 2011 NFL season, and probably continued to sing it, even as he was traded to a lesser team and became the second or third string quarterback, and was eventually let go by that team, and forced to take an earlier than expected retirement from playing the game.

Why do so many people enjoy this song? Click the object below to hear for yourself and see an awesome set of images of God's creation that have been matched up with the music. It starts off quietly and then builds volume and emotion throughout the song.

"Awesome God," performed by Michael W. Smith

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Have you ever visited the ruins of an ancient city or a ghost town?
    2. What is today’s equivalent of the symbolic Babylon described in Revelation?
    3. How do we ensure that we are not placing any gods before the one true God?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we acknowledge you as the One. Strengthen us, please, so that we do not put any gods before you.

    Prayer Concern
    Architects and City Planners

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Revelations 20-22 (A New Heaven and a New Earth)

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