The Fall of Babylon and the Call of the Church

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Revelation 18:1-24 | April 21 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
April 21
The Fall of Babylon and the Call of the Church | Revelation 18:1-24
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Father in heaven, we are keen not to waste our time.  There’s no special merit badges for enduring another sermon.  Help us to learn, help us to grow, help us to be changed, help us to be convicted and encouraged.  Give grace as I preach and give grace to Your people as they listen.  We ask in Jesus’ name and for His sake.  Amen.   

Our text this morning is Revelation 18, almost at the very end of the Scriptures, the last book in the Bible.  Revelation chapter 18.  Lord willing we will be finishing this series in the next couple of months.  Going  through the rest of April, May, and June.  This morning we come to Revelation 18.

You can see the heading in your Bible, The Fall of Babylon.  We’ve already seen the destruction of Babylon, which is not the literal Babylon but as a type, a kind of worldliness, an anti-church.  We’ve already seen the destruction of Babylon foretold three times; once in chapter 14, once in chapter 16, and once in chapter 17.  So now with those brief prior announcements, we come now to zoom in for an entire chapter on the destruction of this city.

Revelation 18.

“After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory.  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.””

“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; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.  Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.  As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, 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.”  And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

““The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!”  The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls!  For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”  And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?””

“And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth!  For in a single hour she has been laid waste.  Rejoice over her, O heaven and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!””

“Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; 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, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.  And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.””

In the second half of Revelation we’ve seen a series of overlapping images that explain what’s going on in the world, what was going on in the first century, what’s going on in our century, and what will happen with increasing intensity at the end of the age.  So we first had this picture of a woman, a child, and a dragon, a picture of the Church and Christ and the devil who makes war against the Church and against Christ.  Then we saw connected to that imagery two beasts, the first beast representative of a corrupt state and the second beast a false prophet representative of a corrupt religion.

Then we’ve had this picture of Babylon, likened as we saw in chapter 17 to a prostitute because like a harlot dressed up and looking beautiful and attractive on the outside yet on the inside is full of gross idolatries and abominations, but enticing the nations of the world to come to her.

So we saw in chapter 16 and the end and then 17 and 18 and then moving into the rejoicing in chapter 19 we’ve been dealing with this new overlapping imagery of Babylon.  What is Babylon?  Well, we know that it was an empire in a literal city.  It’s where God’s people were taken captive.  But here it stands for the anti-Church.  She is the opposite of Christ’s pure, spotless bride.  There’s a reason that in chapter 19, you glance ahead, we’re going to have the marriage supper of the Lamb because there are two women.  You can join yourself and have union with one of these two women, either with the prostitute that is Babylon or with the pure spotless bride that is the Church.

Babylon refers to corrupt society, decadent civilization.  If you put one word on it, it would be worldliness.  It does not refer here to one literal historical kingdom but Babylon is a composite picture of many kingdoms.  So no doubt when this was first written they would have thought of Rome because that was the leading city and empire and set on seven hills.  There’s a number of these images that would have made them think, ah hah, you are talking about Rome, and indeed, John was. 

But it wasn’t just Rome.  It was Tyre, it was Sodom, Nineveh, even at times Jerusalem.  Babylon is manifest today wherever there is corruption, idolatry, immorality.  So yes, there are plenty of Babylons in America, they’re in Europe, Asia, Africa, every continent or country.  Wherever worldliness in a culture makes sin look impressive, attractive, pervasive as if there is no other option to get along in the world other than to sin, that’s Babylon.  Whatever the world does to press upon you, this sense, “well, everyone lives this way,” that’s Babylon.    

And yes, we’re right to see the many dangers that exist in the world around us, the many ways that perhaps a corrupt state or corrupt religion can come and make war against the Church.  We’ve seen those sorts of images in the book of Revelation.  But don’t miss that central word in this book – nike, that is, victory, overcome.  The danger in this book is not only that there might be those who make war against the Church.  Perhaps the even greater danger that Revelation reveals to us is that we might compromise with that enemy of the Church.

This is a longish chapter but we can get at the chapter by focusing on just three verses.  We’ll touch on most of them, but focusing on just three verses.

Look at the very beginning.  In verses 2 and 3, we have a summary of the chapter and then in verse 4 we have the singular point of application.  So that’s what we’re going to do.  First the summary and then finish with a single point of application.

So three summary points then from verses 2 and 3.  We are told in these verses, and it’s borne out in the rest of the chapter, three things about Babylon.  Three realities that will be developed in the rest of the chapter but are introduced here in summary form.

Here’s number one – Babylon was great.

Not great as good, we’ll see it wasn’t good, but it was great.  In fact, that’s her name.  Look at verse 2 – “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.”  Notice how prosperous this Babylon on.  She is called in verse 16, again, “Alas, alas, for that great city.”  Or look up at verse 10, “Alas, alas, you great city, you mighty city.” 

She’s great, she’s powerful, she’s mighty, and above all the emphasis in Babylon is upon her wealth, her luxury.  Every kind of cargo is bought and sold in Babylon.  All sorts of commerce and industry flourish in Babylon.  Look at verse 7 – she glorified herself and lived in luxury.  She is supremely prosperous.  Look at the list of the items sold in her, verses 12 and 13 – cargo of gold, silver, jewels, so precious stones, and then fine clothes, and then costly material and spices, cinnamon, spice, everything nice, and actually lots of things not so nice, and then animals.

Now again we would be over-interpreting if we thought wherever these things exist, this is Babylon.  If you had Cinnamon Toast Crunch this morning, sorry, that’s right there.  That’s the spirit of Babylon.  Well, we have the largest size of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  They got regular, which is for like hamsters, and then they have large and family, and then they need Reformed family size, or something.

So it isn’t that the possession of any of these things, it isn’t even that having something of luxury makes you guilty of the sin of Babylon.  If you define luxury as having something you absolutely don’t need, everyone one of us lives in luxury.  In fact, almost everyone in this country and in the Western world, in most parts of the world, live in luxury.  We have all manner of things that we don’t truly need.

So it’s not just that you have items that are nice.  We know that there’s many times in the Bible that speak about the importance of beauty.  Nathan George is going to teach a class on that, talk about the blessings that can come with prosperity.  So rather it’s that there is trusting here in this luxury, and as we’ll see in a moment, it’s having these luxuries at the expense of others.

Now for most of human history, I’m not an economist, I’m a pastor, but just short little lesson here.  For most of human history, if some people had more, they had more because some people had less.  Wealth was largely a zero-sum game.  Maybe you had a better harvest than somebody else, but for most of human history, if these people got rich, they probably took from someone else or they got the resources from that other land, or they had people who were serfs or who were slaves.  Then about 200 years ago you can look at global GDP per capita and it goes up like a hockey stick, that wealth is created.  So it isn’t to say that everyone who has something has something because someone else has less. 

But that’s largely the case here in Rome.  You notice at the end of this list, rather hauntingly, after the wheat and the cattle and the sheep and then it says, slaves.  Well, that’s how Rome existed.  And that’s how most people throughout history existed upon the literal backs of others.  So these merchants and kings getting rich off of Babylon were willing and perhaps eager to turn a blind eye to everything because they knew that they got in on the riches of this great civilization.

If you’ve been to luxurious places, the Bible gives moments of feasting in our lives, there’s also moments of fasting.  One of the problems is we just like to live the feasting life and not the fasting life.  Over ten years ago I was in Dubai, some of you maybe have been there.  The wealth there is a bit of a mirage.  There are certainly many have-nots, come from other countries, but with all of the oil wealth, it is a place that is given to great opulence.  There’s the famous Burj Al Arab hotel.  Now I was doing ministry there.  They did not put me up at that hotel, you’ll be glad to know, but you can walk by it or try to walk inside of it.  It’s famous for massive aquariums in the lobby, two 250,000 liter aquariums, so just any doctors, dentists, anyone, just try one of those in your office.  Forty species of exotic fish, zebra sharks, bamboo sharks, 4000 different fish you can see as you ride up the escalator.  It’s called the world’s most luxurious hotel.  If there are, I don’t how many stars hotels are supposed to have, maybe it goes up to five, well, this is called a seven star hotel.  It says on the website, “A global icon of Arabian luxury.”  The architecture is luxurious, the infinity pools, the columns, it is meant to feel like you are suddenly an Arabian prince or princess to stay there.

Now consider that for most people throughout history from most parts of the world, they would stroll through many parts of Charlotte and conclude the same things.

Babylon is not just in some other place.  Babylon is found in New York City, it’s found in London, in Paris, in Tokyo, certainly it can be found in Charlotte.  Great size, great wealth, great buildings, great influence, great history, great power.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but somebody said it to me once and it really stuck to me – you can see what the people worship in any given place by their tallest buildings.  There’s a reason that Christians, and we can say, well, maybe the gothic cathedrals were sometimes a monument to the glory of man and certainly there were mixed motives.  But at least ostensibly it was to say the highest point in this city is this steeple, because this is the most important thing we have going on this town.

What would be the most important building?  Well, in some cities, it’s the football stadium.  In some here it would be the financial buildings.  In others it might be luxurious hotels or casinos.  You can just about get a sense for a place.  What is it that they value, that they might be drawn to worship by seeing what are their tallest buildings?  Where is their power?  Where, what do they celebrate?

Babylon was great in influence and history and power.

Number two.  So that’s the first summary point, Babylon was great.  We see that.

Number two.  Babylon was the means by which many nations and many peoples of the earth had grown rich.

So you see in verse 3 – “For all the nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth…  and the merchants of the earth.”  Actually, there are three groups mentioned in this chapter.

So look, I hope you have your Bibles open, look at verse 9 – “And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep.”  So that’s the first group, meaning the nations of the world came in the first century to Rome, or to the spirit of Babylon in order to be rich, the kings got rich off of her.

Then you see in verse 15 the merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, they will stand far off.

Then you turn over to verse 18, 17 into 18, “and all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors…  And they cried as they saw the smoke.”

So these three groups, the kings of the nations, the merchants on the earth, and the sailors on the sea.  One by one, they come when they see the smoke arising from Babylon and they weep.  Why?  Because that’s how they got rich.  That’s how they grew luxurious and opulent.  Each of them.  Babylon represents an international center of economic and cultural power and the peoples of the earth were willing to do whatever it took that they might share in that power.

Henry IV inherited the French throne in 1589.  At first he kept his Protestant faith, very rare for a French king to try to do that, but after four years of military conflict, he converted to Catholicism, uttering those famous words, “Paris is well worth a Mass.”  In other words, if I’ve got to choose between changing my religion and getting Paris, I’ll change my religion.  Paris is worth becoming a Catholic, worth becoming, worth a Mass.

So the same spirit is alive and well in our own hearts.  Wherever we feel that temptation to compromise, to capitulate, in order that we may gain all that Babylon has to offer.  Now Rome was a great civilization and in many ways everyone who lives in this country stands in the shadow of Rome.  We’re all influenced by the Roman civilization and many great cultural and intellectual artifacts.  But the city of Rome was also Babylon, decadent, opulent, full of power, influence.  And, so we see here in verse 13, dependent upon a class of slaves.  It was full of brothels that catered to Roman men.  The empire could brutalize its enemies.

So John’s point here in Revelation is that the kings and the merchants and the sailors were happy to look the other way, or not even that, they committed sexual immorality.  They went along with Babylon because this was the way to get their power, get their money.

Now it’s not wrong, again, to want things of beauty.  Don’t you like it when your neighbor finally mows the lawn that’s been growing wild and unkempt?  Yes, it’s good to want things of beauty and things that last.  But this is luxury at all costs, luxury above all else.  We would do well to think about who are heroes are, who we look up to, who we follow, incessantly follow.  If all your heroes are celebrities, who are famous for their wealth, for their looks, for their fame, then you and I will be shaped by those desires and we will think it is our inalienable right to have wealth and looks and fame. 

These kings and merchants and sailors of the earth did whatever it took that they might get rich from Babylon.

Then here’s the third summary point.  Babylon will fall and fall hard.

You see in verse 5 – “Her sins are heaped as high as heaven and God has remembered her iniquity.”  Or in verse 8 we read that the judgment will come from God.  In verse 10 that the judgment will be swift.  In verses 10 and 17 that her wealth will be removed.  There will be retribution, double for her sins.  Or you might translate it duplicate for her sins.  She will go from a luxurious metropolis to a barren wasteland in an instant.

That’s why these three groups, first the kings, then the merchants, then the sailors, they stand far off.  They’re weeping.  Their hopes had been in Babylon.  Their hopes for their eternal security, for the life of prosperity that every one of us wants, all their hopes were in Babylon.  When Babylon went up in smoke, so did all of their dreams and they weep.  All of Babylon’s glorious and decadent culture will unravel.

Look at the end of the chapter.  Look what happens in verse 22.  First it’s the beauty of the arts.  Verse 22 – the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more.  The arts unravel. 

The promise and blessing of industry is next – and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more.

Then after the arts have disappeared, and the industry, then joy of human relationship, verse 23, the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants and the great ones of the earth were deceived.

What we’ll come to at the end, just we’ll come back to this, it’s not wrong that you want to live in prosperity.  What’s wrong is to think that you get your best life now.  It’s not wrong to want the joy of music and arts and industry and weddings and relationships, that is all a part of the good life.  The folly of so much human civilization is to think that can be found and in lasting measure in Babylon.  So verses 22 and 23 tell us if you’re into the arts, if that’s what you want, don’t put your hopes in Babylon.  If it’s work and industry, that’s good, but don’t put your hopes in Babylon.  Is it relationships, it’s people, it’s weddings, it’s kids, it’s grandkids, it’s all of that, don’t put your hope in Babylon. 

She will become a dwelling place for demons.  Look back up at verse 2 – a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.  Sometimes the Old Testament would use more animal language, a haunt of jackals.  That’s all that will be left in her. 

Have you ever gone out west and gone through one of the ghost towns?  The boom town that flourished for a couple of decades when there was gold or silver in them there hills and then you go and it’s abandoned.  Or sometime, don’t do it right now, Google “abandoned Olympic venues.”  Ooh, creepy.  All of the places, even a few in North America, but all the places over the years that were built up to be shiny Olympic venues and villages and it’s just haunting.  They become just graffiti or overrun with weeds because they poured all this money for two weeks and then the whole thing goes empty and unused.

I’m sure we’ve all been through parts of cities burnt over, bombed out, or think of Pride Rock after Scar took over.  A literal haunt of jackals is what it became.  No blessing, good for nothing.  No more color and flourishing but all drab and ghoulish. 

Life is short.  Babylon will not last.  Babylon will fall and fall quickly.

See, God is not telling you something, it’s hard to hear, but He’s not telling you something that you don’t need to hear.  He is wanting to make us wise.  Don’t live for the city that will not last.

Did you notice this recurring refrain?  Look at verse 8 – For this reason her plagues will come in a single day.  Verse 10 – Alas, you great city, you mighty city, Babylon, for in a single hour your judgment has come.  Verse 17 – For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.  Verse 19 – Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth for in a single hour she has been laid waste.

Just like a thunderclap it will be gone.  Just an explosion of God’s righteous judgment.  God doesn’t want you to be a fool.  Babylon will be gone in a day, in an hour.

So it means there is one obvious point of application.  Those are the three summary points, now look at verse 4.  Here is the one obvious point of application.  What should we do, verse 4 tells us – 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.” 

If we can mix the biblical imagery a little bit, we would say the plagues are coming so now is the time to leave Egypt.  Or think about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19.  Facing God’s righteous judgment and the angels tell Lot, “Hurry, take your wife and your two daughters who are here or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”  They say later, “Flee for your lives.  Don’t look back.  Don’t stop anywhere in the plain.  Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away.”  And famously you may remember, Lot’s wife looked back and she turned to a pillar of salt.  The New Testament tells us, “Remember Lot’s wife.” 

Now I bet that seems like a hard judgment.  Really?  Maybe she left the oven on.  Maybe she just forgot something that she wanted back there.  But no, let’s not go easy on Lot’s wife.  This was not an innocent mistake.  God had warned her and yet she looked back.  Why?  Because she believed that God was calling her out of the life of blessing into the life of cursing rather than the other way around.

God said “get out of there” as an act of gospel mercy and she looked back as if to say, “But that’s where I belong.”  And if that’s where she thought she belonged, then God would treat her as He did the rest of those who belonged in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Luke 17 – Just as it was in the days of Lot, they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out of Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them.  So it will be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.  On that day let the one who is on the housetop with his goods in the house not come down to take them away, likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.

She loved Sodom more than she loved the word of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 6:17, talking about not being unequally yoked with unbelievers, quotes Isaiah 52:11 – Therefore go out from their midst and be separate from them and touch no unclean thing.

So you say, “Okay, but what does that mean?  Are we like Lot’s family?  Are we supposed to literally leave Matthews, Mint Hill, Ballantyne, Charlotte?  Are we supposed to leave?  This is the great prepper sermon.  Everybody go live off the grid.  Well, you can have a lot of Babylon in your heart even when you’re off the grid.

No, it isn’t a message saying you must leave the physical city in which you live, though we all have times where we move for various reasons.  No, there is as much Babylon out in the rural parts as there are in the big cities. 

So how do we leave Babylon?  Well, the answer is given there.  Look again at verse 4 – Lest you take part in her sins.  You leave Babylon by leaving the sins of Babylon behind.  By separating yourself from the spirit of Babylon.  What is the spirit of Babylon?  It is that spirit that says “I must do whatever it takes to get along in Babylon.”  Or, “I must do whatever it takes to get rich in Babylon.”  That’s why it’s called so often in this chapter, adultery.  Everybody was doing it – the kings were doing it, the merchants were doing it, the sailors were doing it, but we see here the Christians were not doing it.  They would not compromise their loyalty to Christ, their fidelity to the truth, to make their way in Babylon just like everyone else. 

What might adultery, what might the temptation to adultery with Babylon look like in our day?  See, this is where the sermon can get legalistic or appropriately convicting because if I just leave it there, don’t have the spirit of Babylon, we’re all okay, that’s good, I don’t want that.  What might it look like?  What might it feel like?  Perhaps it’s paying your employees a pittance, treating them unfairly, so that you might be rich?  Profit’s not wrong, but you must put profit after principles, after people, after the excellence of a product, then you have profit.  Don’t reverse it.

Perhaps some are neglecting their responsibilities to tithe to their local church, to give generously to missionaries, to worthwhile Christian schools and organizations, and give to those who are in need because they figure that first we must reach this standard of living.

Maybe some have gone into so much debt, house, car, credit cards, loans, that we’re no longer free to serve the Lord as He might call us in a moment to do something generously or to do something that seems risky.  And if you haven’t made those decisions, think very carefully about those decisions.  Perhaps some, though I don’t think this is the particular danger in our church, but it certainly is in society at large, would put the having of children so far down on their priority list because they must reach this standard of wealth.

I saw a tweet yesterday that said in 1993 60% of Americans in their early 30s had at least one child and now that number is 27%.  It may not be a problem as much in this church, and there are many people who know the pain of wishing they could have children, or more children, but let us not forget that worldwide, one of the most significant things happening in the whole world is what is not happening in the whole world, and that is people are choosing not to have children, perhaps assuming that the life of nice things in Babylon does not work with kids.

Maybe some are tempted to make ethical compromises as a doctor or a pharmacist or a lawyer or an entrepreneur or a realtor or an actor or an advisor or an advertiser or a government employee for fear that you might lose your business or lose your job. 

Maybe you have given yourself to make decisions about your future only based on what kind of income you can make rather than thinking about, well, am I close to a good church?  Is this school that I’m going to rule out my kids going to, what will the Christian fellowship be like there?  Will they have an opportunity to continue to grow?  Perhaps you and I are sacrificing time needed for spiritual disciplines, family discipleship, personal ministry, because we can only think about how to make more money and how to look more impressive.

Maybe some of us have assumed that because your favorite online influencer looks a certain way, or the average Charlottian lives a certain way, that we have to look and live a certain way. 

The temptation to do whatever it takes to be prosperous is great and, let’s be honest, it is one of the besetting sins and temptations where many of us, including your pastor, live.  It is a kind of magic spell.  Do you see the very end of verse 23?  All the nations were deceived by your sorcery.  That’s what Babylon is.  It’s like a potion that dulls our spiritual senses so you can’t fathom living any other way.  We don’t see clearly.  We make assumptions.  The potion of Babylon gets so deep into our system.  Might it be that some of you are assuming you have to dress in a certain way because, well, everyone like me dresses this way.  Might you be assuming I have to watch these things, you don’t get it, everyone watches these things.  Might you be assuming that you have to give your life over to your children’s travel sports because that’s what everyone does.  Might you be assuming that going to the cabin or to the beach, two nice things we like to do as well, or to all of your kids’ events around the region, and then missing church 20 weeks a year, is just the way that you have to live.

Where is the spirit of Babylon alive and well in our hearts?

You know the old sermon preacher illustration about the big rocks in the bucket.  You got a bucket and if you have the little rocks in first and you get to put the big rocks in, they’re going to stick out and you’re not going to be able to carry those big rocks in the bucket.  But if you put the big rocks in first, then you can see the little ones or the sand that falls around it but you got to make sure you get the biggest rocks in there first.  I fear that for some of us church, Jesus, Bible, Christianity, it’s a rock, it’s a rock for sure, the little rock.  It’s the fifth, sixth, it’s one of the ones that comes in after the really big rocks get in there first.

Babylonian worldliness leads people to two particular sins.  One to do whatever it takes to share in the wealth of Babylon, and then two to make that wealth our hope.  So the two sins there are compromise and then putting our confidence in Babylon.  Babylon gives us this myth of security.

Luke 12:19 – I’ll say to myself you have plenty of good things laid up for many years.  Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.  That’s the spirit of Babylon.

Isaiah 56:12 – Come, they say, let me get wine.  Let us fill ourselves with strong drink and tomorrow we will be like this day, great beyond measure.

Now we know there are proverbs about look to the ant and he stores up so retirement’s good, savings is good, financial planning is good, but this spirit of Babylon says my confidence is in what I have.  You look again at verse 7, she glorified herself, lived in luxury, she says in her heart “I sit as a queen, no mourning shall I see.”  It’s possible for schools to have that spirit, cities, nations, families, individuals, that spirit that says “look at me, I’ve made it, I’m impressive, I’m smart, I’m beautiful, and people love me.”  but it will be gone in an hour.  Gone.

Did you notice at the very end, verse 20, with all of the lamenting, you notice there’s one group that rejoices when Babylon is overthrown.  Verse 20 – Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets for God has given judgment for you against her.

See, heaven can see Babylon for what she really is.  Babylon will fall.  Will you be among those lamenting or rejoicing on that day?  You see, Revelation is pushing us to a choice.  Joel said up here on the platform, “Are you getting tired of preaching Revelation?”  I said, “Well, not quite yet.”  I hope you’re not getting tired of listening to it.  It does get repetitive.  It does say the same things, but that’s good.  It’s a snowball picking up more and more speed and it’s driving us to these critical decisions.

Do you see it here?  Two women, a whore or a bride.  Two masters, a beast or a Lamb.  Two cities, Babylon or the new Jerusalem.  You cannot be at home in both.

Surely one of the dangers in our day is that we have very little by way of a vertical gaze, by a transcendent hope.  Yes, as I’ve said many times, we ought to be engaged in politics and building institutions and pray for revival.  But listen, if it’s all reclaiming America, if it’s all finding Christendom again, if it’s all saving Western civilization, those things will not last. 

There is, of course, an appropriate way to be concerned about all of them and involved in all of them.  We have a prayer time designated in these months for our country in advance of the elections.  We care about all of that.  But you and I better have, overriding all of that and deep in our hearts, Hebrews 13:14 – here we have no lasting city but we seek the city that is to come.

See, you are made with these desires.  They’re good desires.  God knows, you want a place with singing?  We all do.  With fine drink and celebration, the kind of joy that is befitting a wedding?  You want joy, you want riches, you want feasting, you want the best clothes?  God knows that you want them.  So He says live for the city where you get them forever.  Christ welcomes you to that city.  He has gone to prepare a place for you in that mansion.  He will take you by the hand and He will lead you there.  He is calling you, but you have to leave Babylon.  You have to turn from Babylon, take His hand, now His grace, know His rest, and make your way as Pilgrim did in Pilgrim’s Progress to the celestial city.

The prodigal son would never make it home to the father’s embrace until he came to his senses and realized that he did not belong among the pigs.  That that momentary pleasure was not his real home.  You could put it this way – you and I will never make it to Canaan unless we’re willing to leave Egypt first.  Come out of her, My people, says the Lord, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues.  Grab hold of the One who has reached down to grab hold of you, to give you the only life that is truly life, eternal life, in the lasting city where Christ will shine and God with Him from the throne.  So there will be no sun or lamp because Christ will be all in all.      

Let’s pray.  Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your Holy Word.  Now lead us, lead us away from the sins which so easily entangle us and lead us to that glorious city.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.