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Judgment. Wrath. This is what the end will be. The judgment and wrath in the end is Holy, righteous, and true. The judgment and wrath of God will be far reaching. They will affect every aspect of society, culture and all types of people. As we read the scriptures we see that scripture does not portray God’s wrath and judgment in a negative light but in a positive light. In our last sermon we saw over and over again in chapter sixteen with the pouring of the seven bowls that God is true and right when His wrath comes. Wrath is something that God must exercise in order to faithful to all of the other aspects of His character. ALL SIN MUST BE PUNISHED OR GOD IS NOT GOD. God can not be holy and let even one sin go unpunished or unnoticed. As we come this morning to our next section of Revelation in chapters 17-19:10 we see once again that wrath and judgment are necessary and that they are true and they are just. We now come to our sixth of seven different camera angles in Revelation. Chapter 17 begins with a description of Babylon which in many ways is a continuation of the seven bowls of chapter 16. The pouring of the seven bowls of the wrath of God showed us that God’s wrath is far reaching and all aspects of human life will be affected. The beast and the dragon will have to face the wrath of God.
In 17-19:10 we have a full description of something that has been mentioned really in passing up until this part of the book: Babylon. In an earlier sermon we said that Babylon stands for the system of paganism that we see throughout all of history.
In our sermon this morning we have three main points and several sub-points under each main point. The outline reflects a sermon preached by Sinclair Ferguson on these same chapters but not an exact duplication. To begin here are the three points then we will work our way through all three of them. First we will see Babylon Exposed. Secondly we see Babylon destroyed, and lastly we see Heaven Rejoice.
BABYLON EXPOSED: CHAPTER 17
Chapter 17 begins with one of the seven angels of chapter 16 coming to John and saying: Come and I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers of the earth have become drunk. This is how the great prostitute reigns over the earth and how she gains her reign. John is then carried away into the wilderness in the Spirit. The wilderness is to protect John from the affluence of the great prostitute we are about to see.
THE GREAT PROSTITUTE
Being carried into the wilderness John sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous heads and it had seven heads and ten horns. Does that description sound familiar? It should this is the same beast that came out the earth, antichrist, in chapter thirteen. The beast she is riding on is a scarlet beast which is meant to teach us that the beast is closely associated with the great red dragon, Satan, in chapter 12. Now the woman is described. She was arrayed in purple and scarlet. These are colors of majesty and the scarlet associates her with the beast. This woman is adorned with gold and jewels and pearls. She has many things which people would look at and say she is so beautiful.
The woman is holding a golden cup which is full of the abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. These are the things the woman uses to cause the world to be seduced by her. The woman has her name written on her forehead. This of course is not the first time we have seen this in Revelation where something is written on someones forehead. This is a custom of the first century where a prostitute would wear a headband that had the name of their owner on it.1 The name written on her forehead is a mystery. It is a mystery in that we can only know what it means if it is revealed to us by Revelation. Her name is Babylon the great mother of prostitutes and of earths abominations. She is a woman of debauchery. She is a woman who desires to entice and lead people in the way she wants to go. She is an abominable woman. John then sees the woman drunk of the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
The woman here, Babylon the great mother of prostitutes, is meant to be the negative of the woman we saw in chapter 12 and the bride of the Lamb which we will see in chapter 19. She is a downright nasty woman that we see here. This woman makes Jezebel look like a little puppy. This is the teaching we have here. She is awful.
THE WOMAN EXPLAINED
At the sight of the woman being drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus John marveled greatly. This does not really mean that John was amazed by this woman but that he was perplexed by this woman. Sinclair Ferguson in his sermon said John was marveling greatly at how ugly this woman was! The angel rebukes John and asks why do you marvel? The angel is now going to explain to John the mystery of the woman and of the beast. This is to show us that the beast and the woman are so close in relationship that to explain the one is to explain the other.
First the beast John saw was and is not and is about to rise from the bottomless pit to go to destruction. This is what we learned earlier that the beast, antichrist will manifest itself throughout history and then will go away and then come again. The point though here is that the beast is going to destruction. The beast may be powerful but its ultimate end is destruction. Those who do not have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel at the beast because it was and is not and is to come. Notice once again the beast is attempting to be like God.
Secondly the angel says this calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated. Mountains in apocalyptic literature symbolize power. The heads are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has yet to come and when he does he will remain a little while. Let’s take this slowly and keep in mind what we have learned throughout the rest of the book so far. It does not seem that John has in mind here seven individual kings. Up until this point nothing we have seen has been individual as much as it has been about systems or kingdoms. The seven shows the comprehensive or worldwide nature of the rule of the beast.2
The point above all that John is driving home is the reign of the beast, which is symbolized by the seven kings, is brief and short. Remember where we saw the protection of God was symbolized by 1,260 days and the reign and persecution of the beast was 42 months. So here in this instance John is saying the beast does have power, antichrist has power, we acknowledge that. But five of these kings have fallen which means most of the rule of the beast is over. One now is. And the one that is yet to come will remain only a little while. In verse 11 John shows that the beast is an 8th bu t he belongs with the seven and it goes to destruction. The angel is revealing to us that the beast has power, it has a limited time in which t exercise that power and in the end the beast will be destroyed.
First the angel revealed to us that the beast was and is not and is to come again to destruction. Secondly the angel says the seven heads of the beast are seven mountains, mountains mean power, on which the woman is seated. They are also seven kings which show the comprehensive and worldwide power of the beast and show the shortness of the reign of the beast. Thirdly the angel says the ten horns are ten kings, which also show comprehensiveness or fullness, are ten kings or kingdoms that are yet to receive power These will receive power for one hour and they will hand their authority over to the beast. Same thing is taught here as as the seven horns. The time these kings will reign will be but for an hour, it will be a relatively short period of time. These will rule with the beast and will hand their power over to the beast. Once again the reign of the beast will be short.
Fourthly the angel says that above all the beast is meant for destruction. The ten kings along with the beast will make war on the Lamb, Their attempt is futile. They are conquered by the Lamb. These kings along with the beast think they have power but they learn that the Lamb is the King of Kings. Only He is can rightly and truly be called King. He is Lord of lords. Only He can be called Lord and Master. He alone is God. The beast may attempt to be like God and people may describe the beast as God as one who was and is not and will come again. But the Lamb will conquer Him. The Lamb is the one who is and who was and is to come and when He comes the beast will be turned into a pansy. The beast will be introduced to the true King of kings and Lord of lords.
So far the explanation has been mainly about the beast. Which helps explain the woman because they are so close in relationship. In verse 15 the angel tells John that the waters the prostitute was seated on are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. The prostitute is worldwide. Her seduction affects all who do not have their names written in the lambs book of life. The ten horns are going to destroy the prostitute. They and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire. Why does this happen? Why do they have this change of heart? In verse 17 we read God put it into their hearts to do this until His words are finished. In other words they carried out the plans of the one who they hate. They are instruments that God uses to bring about judgment on the system of paganism we see in the world.
The explanation of the woman closes with the angel saying the woman is the great city, which in the first century would have been Rome, but is far reaching, even farther than Rome. The great city has dominion over the kings of the earth.
The great prostitute, the woman, and the beast are all exposed for what they really are. Next we see the judgment of Babylon. Babylon is now going to be destroyed.
BABYLON DESTROYED: CHAPTER 18
With Babylon exposed for who she really is another angel comes down from heaven, this angel has great authority, and the earth was made bright with its glory. The angel is going to announce to us the destruction of Babylon.
BABYLON LEFT DESOLATE 1-3
In verses 1-3 the angel announces 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 of for every unclean and detestable beast. Babylon will be left to that which is dirty and nasty. It will be desolate. There will be nothing of value there. Only that which is unclean will be left. People do not desire to be around demons or unclean birds. Think about here how people react to vultures or buzzards for instance. I can remember one day I was driving home from work and I had my window down and was cruising right along. Next thing I know this big ugly bird called a Turkey Vulture is heading right towards my car and it looks like it is going to fly right in my car. I did not think I was a dead corpse yet so I thought it odd this was happening. I was freaking out I did not want that bird and its nastiness around me. It is unclean and detestable. This is the picture we have here. The great city will be left desolate. It will be a ghost town.
The reason the great city is left like this is because all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality and the kings have committed sexual immorality with her. The merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living. When we have the picture of Babylon as prostitute the picture is not so much one of spiritual unfaithfulness as it is a picture of one prostituting themselves for economic gain. Babylon did this with the kings and merchants and the kings and merchants did it with the great city.
BABYLON GETS EQUAL PUNISHMENT 4-9
In verse 4 another voice from heaven says: Come out of her my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues, for her sins are heaped high as heaven and God has remembered her iniquities. The call to come out is to not take part in what the great city is doing. The call is not meant for believers to go live in a cave. The reason we are to come out is so we do not sin and share our part in her sins and so we do not share in her plagues.
God has remembered the iniquities therefore in verse 6 she will be paid back double as she paid back others. She will be repaid double for her deeds. A double portion will be mixed for her in the cup she mixed. In other words she will drink what she caused others to drink. In verse 7 we learn that as she glorified herself and lived in luxury to give her a like measure of torment and mourning. The punishment she gets will be fitting with the crime she has committed. The idea is not that she will get more than what she did, but with the crime she has done she will get a punishment that fits the crime. The reason she will have an equal punishment is in her heart she says I sit as queen, I am not a widow and mourning I will never see. Because of how and who she is she will face mourning death and famine and she will be burned up with fire. With the things she is prideful in, with those her pride will be reversed and the things she thought she was immune to are going to come on her.
BABYLON’S DESTRUCTION IS SWIFT
Many times in this chapter we see where Babylon’s destruction will come from seemingly out of no where and it will be swift.
In verse 8 we read the her plagues will come in one day. In verse 10 we see that in a single hour her judgment will come. In verse 16 we see once again that in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste. Again in verse 19 we see in a single hour she has been laid waste. Her destruction will be swift and everything she once held dear will be gone and will be wasted away.
BABYLON’S DESTRUCTION IS COMPREHENSIVE
The destruction of Babylon will leave it desolate, it will be a destruction of equal punishment to the sins and crimes she has committed. Her destruction will be swift. The fourth thing we learn is that the destruction is comprehensive.
It is first comprehensive in that it affects all peoples. In verse 9 we see the kings of the earth who committed sexual immorality with her will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. In verse 11 the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her since no one buys their cargo anymore. Notice they are not distraught so much because she is destroyed they are distraught because no one buys from them anymore. In verse 17 all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all who trade on the sea bemoan the fact that Babylon is gone. They Cry Alas, Alas. As do the others. They are saying WOE to us! Because Babylon has been destroyed we have lost our wealth.
Secondly the destruction is comprehensive in that all aspects of the great cities society and culture will be destroyed. In verse 14 the fruit for which Babylon longed is gone from her. All her delicacies and splendors are gone from her, in fact John writes they are lost and will never be found again. In verse 16 the fine linen she was clothed in the purple and scarlet adorned with gold, jewels and pearls will be laid waste in a single hour. In verse 19 all her wealth will be laid waste in a single hour. In verses 22-23 John writes that music will not be heard anymore, there will be no more work of the craftsman anymore. The sound of the mill will be no more. The light of the lamp will shine no more. The voice of the bride and the bridegroom will be heard no more.
BABYLON’S DESTRUCTION IS FINAL AND IRREVERSIBLE
Babylons destruction is comprehensive and it is also final and irreversible. In verse 14 her delicacies are lost never to be found again. In verse 21 a mighty angel takes up a great millstone and threw it into the sea which symbolizes that Babylon will be thrown down in great violence and will be found no more. Then the verses we just looked at in 22-23 we see the words no more five times.
Here is what John is saying here. In our English translations this does not come through as clearly as it does in the Greek. All of these verses we looked at here which say never to be found again or no more and found no more employ a Greek construction which is the most intense way to say no. In Greek John is literally saying not, not. In English this is what we call a double negative which means the two negatives, not, cancel each other out. In Greek this is saying that what happens here is impossible to reverse. When verse 21 says Babylon will be found no more John is saying to us there is no chance this will ever happen. This kind of reminds me of how people think they find Atlantis. Many times you will hear people say that is impossible. But when Babylon is destroyed it will be even more impossible for her to be found. It can not happen. It will be easier for one to find a needle in a haystack.
The destruction will be final. Once Babylon is destroyed there will be nothing left to destroy. It will be done once and for all and it will happen swiftly but it will have a finality about it that would strain our minds to think of how to reverse because it can not.
HEAVEN REJOICES 18:20, 19:1-10
With Babylon destroyed. That worldwide system of paganism which is directly and intentionally opposed to God. Heaven now rejoices. In 18:20 The angel commands Heaven to rejoice over her. The saints and apostles and prophets are called to rejoice. This rejoicing is not so much a direct response because of her destruction but the rejoicing is because God’s righteous judgment has been accomplished. The blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus with which the great prostitute was drunk with has been avenged. God in His Holy Wrath has paid her back with an equal punishment for the crimes and sins she has committed. When God’s judgment comes that is a cause for rejoicing because God is His sovereignty is working His plan according to His purpose.
The rejoicing continues into chapter 19. In verses 1-8 there is a fourfold Hallelujah in heaven. In verse 1 we read of a great multitude in heaven. Hallelujah means PRAISE GOD!
In the first Hallelujah the multitude exclaims Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality and has avenged on her the blood of his servants. God is praised for His salvation and His glory and His power. In His judgments He is true and Just. He has judged the great prostitute who was responsible for corrupting the earth, and on her God has avenged the blood of His servants.
The second Hallelujah in verse 3 exclaims Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever. With her destruction Babylon will be no more and her punishment will be an eternal one. Once again God accomplished His will.
The third Hallelujah simple says Amen! Hallelujah. This is from the twenty four elders and the four living creatures. The Amen shows that what we see is how things are and for that we praise God.
The fourth Hallelujah leads us to the first mention of the marriage supper of the Lamb. This one exclaims Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen bright and pure. First notice that this song is forward looking, It does not look back to the destruction of Babylon but looks forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Secondly the Bride, the Church, has made herself ready. The linen that she was granted to clothe herself is the righteous deeds of the saints which only happen because of who they get their righteousness from, the Lamb Jesus Christ.
To close out this section a blessing is pronounced for those who are invited to the Marriage supper of the Lamb. What a privilege indeed to sit at the table of feast with the one who came and died to take away our sins. What a blessing indeed to sit at table with Jesus when at one time we were enemies. What a blessing to sit at table with the one who is my conqueror, and because of this truth I can conquer. What a blessing to sit at the table with Jesus knowing that we no longer have any cares or burdens that will try to obstruct our view and devotion to Him. What a blessing to know that as the Bride Christ has done everything for us so we can prepare and be ready for the great feast.
To end this morning we should end where John ends this particular portion of Revelation. In verse 10 John bows before the messenger of the vision. The angel rebukes him and says do not worship me but worship God. Worship God folks. Worship Him alone. May we be careful to not worship other things that may be spiritual but are not the proper things for our worship to be directed at. Worship. Even in the midst of chaos and destruction. In the midst of wrath and judgment worship God. When we worship God our focus is going to be where it needs to be. Our focus will be on Jesus. Our focus will be on preparing for the great eternal feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb. Worship God. Practice now for heaven. Heaven will be nothing but a never ending worship service to God for what He has done and completed for us. That is heaven indeed. If you can’t worship God here what makes you think you will be able to worship God heaven?