Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Joy in Heaven

Reflections on Revelation 19:1-5

A great multitude in heaven rejoices because God has avenged the blood of his servants by judging the great prostitute.  They rejoice again because they see the smoke from her rising up forever and realize that her judgment is final and eternal.  Never again will they suffer from her violence or fear her deception. 

Finally, the twenty-four elders, representing all saints from both the Old and New Testament ages, and the four living creatures, representing all living creation, fall down and worship God.  A voice from the throne commands all God's servants, all who fear him whether great or small, to praise their God. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Babylon's Judgment Is Final and Complete

Reflections on Revelation 18:21-24

Next, a mighty angel demonstrates the finality and declares the completeness of the judgment of the great prostitute, Babylon. The finality of her judgment is shown by the angel throwing a great millstone into the sea from which it will never rise again just as Jeremiah declared, "Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more" (Jeremiah 51:64).

The completeness of Babylon's judgment is shown by the total silence and darkness that encompasses her. Drawing from several Old Testament passages concerning God's judgment of several wicked cities,1 John says that the sounds of musicians, craftsmen, bakers, brides, and bridegrooms will be silenced and that every lamp will be extinguished in Babylon.

Finally, the mighty angel reiterates the reasons for Babylon's judgment: her princes were rapacious merchants, her sorceries deceived the nations, and her streets were stained with the blood of prophets and saints. The question of those who were slain, "How long?" has now be answered (see Revelation 6:10).
- - - - - - - - -
1 Isaiah 14:11 concerning Babylon, Isaiah 24:8 concerning the whole earth, Ezekiel 26:13 concerning Tyre, and Jeremiah 7:34; 25:10 concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lamentation and Joy

Reflections on Revelation 18:9-20

Three groups which have profited from their relationship with the prostitute Babylon lament the fall of her who in pride said she would never be a widow in mourning. Those groups are the kings of the earth, merchants, and seafaring men.  The laments of these three remind us of the laments of mariners, inhabitants of coastland, kings, and merchants over the city of Tyre in Ezekiel 27:29-36. 

The kings of the earth mourn because they have purchased the favor of (committed sexual immorality with) Babylon and her gods by plundering their own people.  Now Babylon, like Jerusalem who had also played the part of a prostitute (Ezekiel 16:15-22), is stripped of her luxurious clothing and destroyed (compare with Ezekiel 16:35-40).  

The merchants mourn because they had profited by carrying precious cargoes to Babylon, cargoes that were also carried to Tyre (compare Revelation 18:12 with Ezekiel 27:1-25).   Just as God stripped Tyre of its wealth because its pride had made her exalt herself as a god (Ezekiel 28:2 ff.), so God now strips Babylon of her wealth and destroys her. 

Finally, all who make their living on the sea raise a lament because the source of their income has been laid waste suddenly in a single hour. 

The section ends with the heavenly voice  which called God's people to come out of Babylon (v. 4) exhorting all God's people (saints, apostles, and prophets) to rejoice because God has judged Babylon on the behalf of all who had suffered and been slain (Note the punctuation in NASB, NKJV, NLT, and NET).  The wording is an allusion to Deuteronomy 32:43 where Moses says concerning God,

   Rejoice, O nations, with his people,
        for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
   he will take vengeance on his enemies
        and make atonement for his land and people. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Flee for Your Life!

Reflections on Revelation 18:1-8

The prostitute's love of luxury and wealth makes her the dwelling place for all kinds of evil demons, unclean spirits, and detestable beasts which are pictured to create aversion for one whose appearance is of luxury and wealth.  Kings and merchants, blinded by her glitter, do business with her and profit as middle men between the prostitute/city and the nations she exploits.  In this way, they commit immorality with her. 

John then hears a voice from heaven warning the saints to come out of Babylon lest they take part in her sins of greed and immorality.  The saints must flee the city just as Lot fled Sodom lest they be destroyed with Babylon the Great when God repays her for her sins. 

Just as the ancient cities of Tyre and Babylon were paid back for plundering other nations, so Babylon the Great, the archetype of all such cities, will be paid back double for  her sins.  The payback will be a surprise for her.  She thinks, "I am a queen, not a widow, and I will never experience grief" (compare with Babylon in Isaiah 47:7-8).  However, the Lord God judges her, and in a single day the nations she plundered will bring upon her torment, famine, and the conflagration which consumes her (Isaiah 47:9).   

Friday, September 7, 2012

Destruction of the Great City

Reflections on Revelation 17:15-18

As noted earlier, the prostitute Babylon the great is an archetype representing many cities.  She sits on many waters which are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.  She is faithless Jerusalem and vile Babylon in the Old Testament.  She is Rome in John's day, and there will be such a "city" at the end of this age.  The city desires to have a king to lead her in battle and provide her with luxuries and the spoils of war, and the beast provides her with those luxuries by means of his deceptive and violent rule.

In the end, the beast turns against the great city which he has come to despise.  He promises power to ten kings, nations formerly plundered by the military and economic power of the great city exercised by the beast, and they turn on the city because they hate her.

This shocking change of alliances is the undoing of the great city.  She will not enjoy her ill-gotten luxuries forever.  Just as the beast had looted others to provide her with luxury, so she will be looted by the beast and kings allied with him.  Thus, she will meet the end fitting of a prostitute.  Wives have been deprived by the gifts that she received from her lovers, and now her lovers will strip her, make her naked and desolate, and burn her with fire (compare with Ezekiel 16:36-43; Leviticus 21:9). 

We get a clear picture here of how God treads the winepress of his wrath.  He causes Babylon to reap what she has sown.  He causes the beast and the ten kings to do to her as she has done to others just as David writes in Psalms 9:7-12, 15-16 NIV,

         The LORD reigns forever;
            he has established his throne for judgment.
         He will judge the world in righteousness;
            he will govern the peoples with justice.
         The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
            a stronghold in times of trouble.
         Those who know your name will trust in you,
            for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

         Sing praises to the LORD, enthroned in Zion;
            proclaim among the nations what he has done.
         For he who avenges blood remembers;
            he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.

         The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
            their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
         The LORD is known by his justice;
            the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Mystery of the Beast Explained

Reflections on Revelation 17:7-14

The beast that carries the prostitute is godless, human government.  When the beast "was," it held the nations in darkness without knowledge of God before the time of Christ.  Christ defeated the beast that "was" so that now it "is not" because it is unable to keep the nations in darkness without the knowledge of God (Beale, p. 864).  However, he rises again from the Abyss (bottomless pit) to deceive the nations at the end of the age, and his kingdom is again shrouded in darkness.  Nevertheless, his renewed power lasts only a little while before he goes to destruction.

Haifa and the Mediterranean Sea
The seven heads of the beast are seven mountains, where mountains suggest the power or strength of the heads (Beale, p. 868).   The heads are also kings or kingdoms (Daniel 7:17, 23).   Seven does not suggest the precise number of kings but the complete number of such kings however many they may be (Beale, p. 869; Johnson, p. 559).  Five (numerous) kingdoms which held the world in darkness have fallen.  They are the beast who was and is not.  One kingdom is, and represents the beast who still persecutes the saints but is stripped of his power to hold the nations in darkness.  Another, the seventh, will come but he will remain only a little while before going into destruction. 

Just as the eighth day is the day of resurrection and the beginning of a new week, the last king will portray himself as an eighth, resurrected king who has recovered from Christ's deadly blow and who is able to usher in a new era.  Indeed, because he has renewed power to deceive the nations and plunge them into spiritual darkness again, ten lesser kings (the ten horns) will give him their allegiance in order to make war on the Lamb (compare with Revelation 16:14, 16).  John reassures the saints that although this king makes himself out to be something new, the eighth, he is of the seven, and like the former kingdoms he too will go into destruction (Johnson, p. 561).  The Lamb will conquer the beast and his allies. Those with the Lamb, those who are called and chosen and faithful even unto death, have waged war with the beast and conquered him. This answers the question asked earlier, “Who is like the beast (in strength - DM)? Who can make war against him?”  (Revelation 13:4 NIV).