Revelation Devotion #23 – Pastor Timothy
In Genesis 11:2, people moved eastward to a plain in Shinar. At this location, they determined in their hearts to build “a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens,” so that they could make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). That tower is known as Babel.
The motivation for constructing such a tower extended from sinful humanity’s sense of pride and self-sufficiency. Babel represented a defiant spirit against the person of God.
Babel and Babylon are the same place. When the Lord delivers Israel into exile, He takes them back to the land of Shinar (Daniel 1:2, NASB). There, King Nebuchadnezzar declares, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30, NASB)
As we come to Revelation chapters 17 and 18, John thus connects the dots where the great whore Babylon symbolizes the kingdom-spirit of humanity (a kingdom-spirit that reflects the same self-seeking, defiant nature of Satan). John explains how the blasphemous woman “held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth’” (17:4-5).
Babylon clamors for the honor and glory that rightfully belongs only to God. Not surprisingly, though, the Bible begins with God scattering the nations from Babel, and it ends with God bringing down judgment upon all who maintain allegiance to Babylon.
Revelation chapter 16 indicates the way that God will pour down His wrath in final judgment, whereas chapters 17 and 18 explain that Babylon faces this judgment because of her immoral character. Four times John refers to Babylon as a prostitute (17:1, 5, 15, 16) and three times as committing adulteries (17:2, 4).
God’s people are called to come out from Babylon (18:4). We are called to a life of holiness, or sanctification. Literally, this means that we are set apart to God.
Being set apart to God involves withdrawing from the wickedness for which Babylon stands and committing ourselves to the Lord. Consider the following four categories:
1. Babylon has always exalted false gods, from emperors to philosophers to athletes. That idolatrous spirit carries over into today’s culture. What do we place ahead of our worship of Christ? Golf, hunting, concerts, entertainment, work?
2. Babylon has always promoted sexual immorality, originally advanced through cult and temple prostitutes. The extent to which sexual sin has become widespread needs little explanation. We live in a society where individuals, regardless of their gender at birth, now identify however they choose. Few sexual practices are considered out of the realm of acceptability. Will we show love even as we stand on the clear teaching of Christ?
3. Babylon has always exploited other persons if it means economic prosperity and luxury for some. The end of Revelation 18:13 references “human beings sold as slaves.” We can trace throughout world history cultures which have engaged in the evil practice of chattel slavery. Furthermore, exploitation happens through low wage work situations (i.e., sweatshops). Do we care about how the products we buy are produced, or do we only care about how much it costs for us to buy them? Are we engrossed in the materialistic culture around us, or are we compelled to give graciously in the name of Christ.
4. Babylon has always promised success through compromise. Revelation 17-18 reminds us to carefully consider the connections that we forge. Take, for instance, our investment portfolios. Do we know the ethical quality of our stocks and mutual funds? Do we care? Such a spirit has even infiltrated our churches. J. Scott Duvall contends the way that we do church sometimes drifts into imitating the world. He writes: “Our numbers may increase, but are we really doing what’s best for the people? A pastor friend of mine once said, ‘What you win them with, you win them to’ — which is a healthy caution to think about our methods as well as our message since the two are usually linked in some way.” Is it about success in the eyes of the world or about honoring Christ?
This much is clear: Babylon promotes false promises and false hopes.
James Resseguie brilliantly points out that Revelation 18:9-19 serves as a parody of the heavenly worship service that takes place with the four living creatures, elders, and all of creation in Revelation 4-5. Resseguie labels the funeral lament of the kings, merchants, and mariners as a counter worship service for the counterfeit god.
Duvall thus concludes that whichever God/god we choose to serve will determine our final outcome: “Eternal life in the new heaven and new earth, or a funeral where you mourn the sudden death of your god.”
Indeed, notice the phrases that communicate the “never again” of Babylon in Revelation 18:21-23 contrasted with the “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:4. Will you choose to follow the way of Babylon that ends with the absence of everything that is good, or will you choose to follow the way of Christ that ends in the absence of all that is devastating?