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Revelation 18 – Two Ways – The Fall of Babylon
When we study Revelation it is easy to feel it is a bit alien and foreign to us. After all, it is a vision of the future. So how does the future affect our present?
Imagine for a minute that before you get married God would show you a sign marked either “successful” or “unsuccessful.” That sign would show if your marriage will be good or not. Would you want to see this sign? And if the sign said, “unsuccessful,” would that affect your decision?
The book of Revelation is like this. It shows us that people are on one of two paths. It then shows us the final destination of those paths.
Some might ask if Revelation is practical. It is extremely practical because when you know where the different paths are heading, you can make a wise decision to choose the right path.
I have titled today’s message, “Two Ways.” We will see two distinct paths and the destination if you choose the wrong one.
I. The History and Meaning of Babylon
Revelation 18:1 – Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.
This chapter is all about the fall of Babylon the great. To fully understand the significance of this, we need to go back and trace the history of this city and its meaning in the Bible. Babylon is a city which is very significant at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis and at the end of the Bible here in Revelation.
It was started by Nimrod.
Genesis 10:8-10 – Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
The name “Nimrod” means “Let Us Revolt” or “Let Us Rebel.” And the city lived up to it’s founder’s name.
God commanded people to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28)
But the people of Babel had a different idea.
Genesis 11:4 – Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
They made up their minds to do exactly the opposite of what God had commanded. In their rebellion, they wanted to gather together under one united banner of mankind and make a statement that they would not submit to God. They would do things their own way. They were independent. Man was boss, not God.
This was the first attempt at a one-world government. They built a Ziggurat in defiance of worshiping God and setting up false religion.
Thus Babylon represents the world system which sets itself up in opposition to God. That system includes man’s religious, political, and economic self-will. Babylon the religion was dealt with in Revelation 17. And Babylon the political and economic entity is dealt with here in Revelation 18.
See what Babylon is here in Revelation 18:2-3.
Revelation 18:2-3 – And he called out with a mighty voice,
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
It is wicked, filled with demons and the influence of demons. It is the devil’s city. Much like Jerusalem is the city of God, Babylon is the city of the devil.
Babylon is mentioned 260 times in the Bible. From the beginning it has opposed God. It was also the empire which first came and conquered Jerusalem, taking its inhabitants as exiles away from the Promised Land.
Here in Revelation 18 we see the climax of this battle between two systems. Throughout the whole Bible and all of human history, Satan has been trying to entice people to join his kingdom and reap the benefits of wealth, power, and sex. The battle between good and evil is fought on many different fields. And Satan has always made masterful use of the world and its system to draw people away from God and to his philosophy.
So we see three things about Babylon historically.
A. It begins as the place of man’s rebellion through a united world effort which God judged by the confusion of languages.
B. It is the instrument that seeks to take away the land promised by God to His people, the Israelites.
C. It is controlled by Satan and used to represent the worldly system of politics and economics, which is influenced by Satan and sets itself up in opposition to God.
His goal for this system is to lure people away from God’s design for them. He has been doing this from the very beginning when he tempted Adam and Eve and he is still doing it now.
II. The Allure of Babylon
We are not yet in the time that this final version of Babylon will be revealed. But Satan is nonetheless active in this world. He is not just sitting around waiting for his end to come. You know, he probably has meetings with his top lieutenants. What would they do at these meetings? Their agenda items would be discussing how to lure, seduce, and tempt people away from God. They target the church. They target families. They target children. They target students. They use every tool at their disposal: especially the world system all around us.
The world system tempts us in the same ways that are shown here in this chapter. And here we see five key temptations used to allure people away from God and to the world.
A. Wealth – The words “wealth” or “riches” appear five times in this passage. One of the ways Satan tries to entice is through money.
Revelation 18:3b – And the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.
Here are a few questions you can think about to evaluate your own attitude toward money:
- How many of our decisions are made with money as the first consideration?
- Do you spend much time thinking about money?
- Do you spend much time talking about money?
- How often do you check your investments or bank account?
- Are you willing to sin to get more money? (For example avoiding taxes)
Many people give their lives to the pursuit of making money.
Application: Brothers and sisters, this is not the way. God has not called us to a pursue worldly riches. That doesn’t mean it is sin to be rich. Our motivation for and our use of those riches is key.
B. Immorality –
Revelation 18:3 – For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her.
One of the things Satan offers is immorality. Of course he doesn’t call it immorality. He calls it pleasure, innocent fun, romance, a thrill. He promises happiness, free sex with no consequences.
From Old Testament times, many false religions were built upon immorality. Many temples were filled with prostitutes and immorality was even an aspect of worshiping that deity.
That hasn’t changed today. Modern day movies and TV shows are increasingly filled with immorality. Access to pornography is far more widespread. What used to be done secretly in the dark is more and more boasted about and done wide open in public. Through media, the allure of immorality can be broadcast straight into the home.
In Revelation 18, we see that the world has mostly bought what Satan is selling. They don’t just dabble in it a little bit. They don’t do it secretly or try to hide it. They have become completely drunk, intoxicated with sexual immorality. They do it brazenly, in the open, without any shame.
We see the world quickly moving toward the rampant immorality depicted here in Revelation 18.
In Romans Paul describes what it is going to be like.
Romans 1:32 – Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
People are not content to do it themselves. They praise and exalt others who engage in the same immoral behavior. They glorify it. And they ostracize and attack any who point out the sin.
So in the end times people will embrace the government and leaders who support, even celebrate their sin.
Application: Brothers and sisters, this is not the way. God places certain boundaries on us for our own good. Let us not feel these boundaries are a burden. Rather they free us from the horrible consequences of sin.
Revelation 18:3 – and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.
Revelation 18:7 – As she glorified herself and lived in luxury
Revelation 18:16 – “Alas, alas, for the great city
that was clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
Babylon promotes indulgence and luxurious living. Merchants who do business with her reap great wealth. This wealth is not used to help others. It is not used for the poor. There is no thought of frugality or generosity.
People make money in order to spend it on lavish living. In such a world with no restraint, the more grandiose and absurd the purchase the better. Vain people will compete with each other for new ludicrous ways to spend their money.
People zealously pursue lavish lifestyles, caring not how much money is wasted. It brings them pleasure. And in this system, you are number 1.
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei for example owns over 5000 luxury cars valued at 2.3 trillion.
Others buy yachts, mansions, fashion clothes. One of my previous students who I taught English to told me that her purse cost 70,000 yuan. And she was quite proud of it.
It is not only the rich who seek luxury. They buy more expensive toys because they can. People with less money face the same trap of always wanting more.
Application: Brothers and sisters, this is not the way. God does not call us to pursue a lavish lifestyle. He doesn’t call us to chase the world.
Revelation 18:22 – And the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more,
and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more.
Another way that this worldly system comes against God is through culture. Think about how many cultural things in history glorify sin.
- Gladiators. Is it a thing of the past? How about UFC fighting?
- Drunkenness (drinking is part of our culture!)
- Certain kinds of art (Many artists paint and display nudity. It is all for appreciating the human body they say. And yet God commands modesty and clothed Adam and Eve. Why are so many statues and art pieces of naked people?)
- Music – Many types of music dishonor God.
- Films – Many modern films glorify sin. Grotesque violence, drugs, sex. But “it’s art,” they say. Yes, it is a corrupted form of art from a corrupted system that is against God.
Many sinful practices are excused by the phrase “it’s culture” or “it’s art.” Mankind is fallen and depraved. Therefore culture is fallen and depraved.
At the time of Noah, God described how He saw mankind.
Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
In the last days it will be even worse. And we can see things headed in that direction.
Application: Brothers and sisters, this is not the way. God does not call us to follow the culture around us. He calls us to redeem it. We can redeem music and use it to honor God. We can redeem films and use them to share the good news. There is even a site called Redeem TV and they have good, Christian films like The Chosen, Courageous, and Torchlighters for kids. You can redeem art and use your artistic gift to glorify God. You can redeem sports and use them as an outreach tool.
III. The Destruction of Babylon
Revelation 18:7-10 since in her heart she says,
I sit as a queen,
I am no widow,
and mourning I shall never see.’
For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,
death and mourning and famine,
and she will be burned up with fire;
for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”
And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
“Alas! Alas! You great city,
you mighty city, Babylon!
For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
The capital of this economic, commercial, and political system which sets itself up against God is going to be destroyed. When it happens, it will happen fast. In a single day. In a single hour. God is going to destroy it, burning it up with fire.
The ramifications of this will be seen across the globe. Its political allies will weep and mourn. Its merchant partners will wail and despair. Supply chains across the world will be broken. Ships and cargo will be stranded with no buyers. Business will be wrecked. Business owners will be destitute.
One doesn’t have to use very much imagination to understand how this will effect the global economy. In 2008, when just one important financial firm in the US went bankrupt (The Lehman Brothers), the stock market crashed. Not just in Wall Street. Across the world, one by one as markets opened they all crashed. Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Dubai, Berlin, London. In a single day the global economy crashed. Every person linked to this economy felt its affects.
On that day or reckoning for Babylon, the pain will be far worse. Every person who is connected to that evil system will feel it. The wailing and despair shows how much they hope in and rely on that for their safety and security.
They picked the wrong horse. And God’s Word says, “you reap what you sow.” They chose sin and pleasure and wealth and luxury instead of God. And in this chapter, we see that they will pay the price.
1 John 2:16-17 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Look around you for a moment. What is going to last? Nothing. Nothing that you can see is eternal. The only thing that will last around you is the souls of the people next to you. That is what God’s kingdom is made up of. And that is where we should invest!
The whole of Revelation and here in chapter 18 show us this epic battle between God and Satan, good and evil, the narrow road and the broad road. Here again we see that God wins.
Imagine for a second you are a gambler and someone comes to you and is able to tell you in crystal clear detail how the match will go and who will win. Do you think that gambler will bet on the losing side? That would be insanity. And so it is insane to gamble one’s soul and bet on this world’s system. It is going to lose. We have seen the end. Which side are you going to choose?
IV. Our Attitude Toward Babylon – Two Ways
What man sees:
What God sees:
- Dwelling place for demons
- A haunt for every unclean spirit
- A haunt for every unclean bird
- Her sins are heaped as high as heaven
When God looks at the world’s corrupted system, that is what He sees. And because He sees the truth about this world, He gives those who belong to Him a clear command.
Revelation 18:4 – Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;
Will there be a literal voice from heaven? Maybe. Or maybe it is Scripture like this one. Either way, the point is clear. God’s people must not align themselves with Babylon. From this, we can find our main application for today.
Acts 24:14 – But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers.
In New Testament times the Christian faith was called “the Way.” It was called this because believers lived their life a different way from those in the world. Their faith affected how they live. The way they treated their family was different. The way they did business was different. And most importantly, they followed the true way to God through Jesus.
So in this passage we see a clear contrast. There are two ways. We can follow the crowd and live like the world or we can be different. And these choices are night and day different.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”
Here we see five contrasts between God’s way and the world’s way.
Righteousness – Lawlessness
Light – Darkness
Christ – Belial (Satan)
Believer – Unbeliever
Tempe of God – Idols
So what does He command?
- Go out.
- Be separate.
- Touch no unclean thing.
And God takes that idea of being separate and distinct very seriously. In the Old Testament, Jews were to be very different from others. Because they could not eat the same foods, do the same things, or even wear the same clothing, they were almost forced to be separate.
In the New Testament, the church is called to the Great Commission. We have all heard the phrase, be in the world, but not of the world. We don’t have to become monks in Inner Mongolia and confine ourselves to a monastery. But neither do we join in doing things the way the world does and say, “I am being in the world.”
We in the church are to be salt and light. Jesus said that when the salt loses its flavor, it is no good anymore. We are called to maintain our distinctiveness. The light of Christ through us is to penetrate the world in this dark hour.
In a very real sense, the Holy Spirit through the church is holding back the tide of evil in this world. Without the light from believers speaking the truth, the world would quickly spiral into more and more insane sin.
So the question is, are you joining the world? Or are you redeeming it?
Here in Corinthians, Paul commands believers to not be yoked together with an unbeliever. We must not be yoked together with Babylon, the corrupt world system which thumbs its nose at God.
- Do not marry unbelievers. There is nothing that allies yourself so closely to the world’s system than marriage!
- Consider where to send your kids to school. Would you send your child to Nimrod Babel High? If not, then should you send your child to school that is run by the same worldly system today? It may be that your child can go to Babylon University (like Daniel did) and share the gospel, and be salt and light. If that is what God is calling you to do, OK. If so, you must prepare them them first. Are your children prepared to face the immense pressure to conform from the system schools?
- How are you going to redeem your community or culture? How are you going to be salt?
Matthew 6:19-21 – Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
- In light of this chapter, is it wrong to invest in the stock market? Why or why not?
- In light of this chapter, can a believer ever enjoy a luxury? Why or why not?
- What is one area that you have been pressured to conform to the world’s way rather than God’s? What did you learn from this?
- Share some ways you can redeem the community/culture around you rather than yoking yourself to it.
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