9And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
“Alas, alas, the great city,
Babylon, the mighty city!
For in one hour your judgment has come.”
11And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, 13cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves — human lives.
14 “The fruit for which your soul longed
has gone from you,
and all your dainties and your splendor
are lost to you,
never to be found again!”
15The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,
16 “Alas, alas, the great city,
clothed in fine linen,
in purple and scarlet,
adorned with gold,
with jewels, and with pearls!
17 For in one hour all this wealth has been laid waste!”
And all shipmasters and seafarers, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,
“What city was like the great city?”
19And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out,
“Alas, alas, the great city,
where all who had ships at sea
grew rich by her wealth!
For in one hour she has been laid waste.”
20Rejoice over her, O heaven, you saints and apostles and prophets! For God has given judgment for you against her.
[Moving forward in these devotionals I plan to mix standard devotional thoughts based on the day's lectionary readings and thoughts based on "Kingdom Culture." I realize, as all of you realize, that we live such busy lives that getting together regularly (more than once or twice a week) is simply not realistic. The downside of this infrequency is that we lack the kind of conversation that is needed to deepen our understanding of what God is doing in our lives and of what God is calling us to think about. So, for a handful of days a month I will converse with you about Kingdom Culture. For today, though, I will comment on the passage from Revelation.]
Babylon "the Great," "the Great City," was an actual city in Mesopotamia (today's Iraq). It was the political, economic, and religious center of that part of the ancient world. It was (in)famous for its wealth, luxury, and decadence. The title, "Babylon the Great" comes from Daniel 4:30. By the time of the vision above, Babylon is an ancient city in memory only. But "Babylon" did nevertheless convey something symbolic, as a stand-in for terrible pagan power at war with God's people.
Given this background, Babylon the Great was most likely linked to Rome. Like Babylon, Rome was the great power center of the pagan world. Rome was the great persecutor of God's people. (Another interpretive possibility: Babylon stands for the political, economic, and religious center at the very end of the age that's ruled by the antichrist.)
Three classes of people lament Babylon's downfall: (1) kings (v. 9), (2) merchants (v. 11), and (3) seafarers (v. 17). All three groups lament because their own political power, influence, and wealth are tied to Babylon and the fall of Babylon meant their own fall in terms of power, influence, and wealth. Global economy is not new.
The downfall of Babylon "in one hour" tells us how swiftly a might power can fall. In historic time, 100 years is not long. "In one hour" can mean anything less than 100 years.
The thing to observe in the passage is verse 20, that Babylon fell because "God has given judgment for you against her," meaning the fall of Babylon/Rome is ultimately the result of God's judgment.
Apostles, saints, believers, martyrs, followers of Jesus are insignificant people in the eyes of mighty Babylon/Rome/Pagan Power. At best, these crazy religious people are a headache, a nuisance, an annoyance to get rid of. But in reality (in God's perspective) these crazy people are beloved, adored, and cherished by the living God. Mess with them at your own peril!
The living God is so committed to His people that even mighty nations will go down if they don't treat God's people rightly. That's the insight that's given in the vision above.
Obviously, we are not the center of the universe. Only the Triune God is the center. But what is in the center of God's heart? Answer: We are! God's people, the Bride of Christ, is at the center of God's heart. Therefore, although we might not occupy the center of the cosmos, nonetheless we can be encouraged that we are at the center of God's heart which is just as good. In contrast, mighty nations are insignificant.
Let's pray: Father God, we thank you for loving us so. For being completely attentive to our welfare. We thank you that your people whom you cherish are never far from your thoughts. Mighty worldly powers and empires and nations are no match in comparison to your power and purpose. We pray for the persecuted church around the world especially and we pray that you would give them strength and safety; and need be, we pray for the persecuting powers, that you would do with them what you did to Rome, for the sake of your people and for the sake of your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.