Satan’s kingdom comes to an end: Part 2
In chapter 17 we learned something of the start of the collapse of Satan’s kingdom – it’s a collapse that comes from within as the beast (Satan’s offspring) turns on the prostitute (false religion). In chapter 18 we will see the collapse of Satan’s corrupt commercial system. In all of this we notice mentions of God’s Holy people. Where are they when all of this is going on and what’s their story?
- God’s Holy People
It’s very important to be clear that from Genesis 12 all of the Old Testament is concerned with the story of Israel and Abraham’s physical descendents. The gospels are the story of the coming of the Messiah to his choice people, the book of Acts is largely the story of the rejection of the new covenant by this reluctant nation, the letter from James (as well as the book of Hebrews) was written to Jews and likely Peter’s two letters were written to these people, not to mention significant themes in Paul’s writing concerning Jews! Furthermore, the book of Revelation ends with the New Jerusalem and its 12 gates: each named after one for Israel’s twelve tribes. This should not surprise us (even if we in our church age have a strong tendency to rather ignore it!) as God told Abraham that it would be through his descendents that all of the world would be blessed. So what’s happening to God’s earthly representatives in Revelation and specifically in chapters 17 and 18 as Satan’s kingdom starts to fall? The church: we are specifically told by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5 that we in the church age have not been appointed to wrath. We have a blessed hope! There was a gentleman who used to come to our church who always told me that I should stack my garage full of tins of food because the day of wrath was coming! I asked him if he was doing this too, but he replied that he didn’t have a garage! There may well be days of shortage, who knows, but we as believers in the church are not to look for a day of wrath but a day of blessing! We will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air: an event that comes before this final period of God’s wrath and the culmination of Satan’s wicked kingdom. But what about Israel? A straightforward reading of both Old and New Testaments indicates that in spite of their unbelief, and in spite of their rejection of the Messiah, God has not finished with these people. In view of this, it’s not that surprising that they have retained their identity over the past 2000 years and have, against all the odds, installed themselves in their land – but they remain in unbelief (to say the least!). They will not be ready for the blessed hope that we have, but they come into view after the church has been caught up to be with the Lord. They are hated by Satan because they are the people through whom God will set up his eternal kingdom – it is on the throne of David that the Messiah will sit. To put it in Zechariah’s words: ‘On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nation.’ So what is to become of God’s chosen people? They will suffer greatly at the hands of the beast, but God will at least partly protect, but it gets better, they will at last turn to God in repentance even amidst the appalling work of Satan and the beast. In Zechariah’s prophecy (chapter 12:10) we read these marvellous words: ‘I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one grieves for an only child…’ Then even better in the next chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy: ‘On that day a fountain will be opened in the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.’ But that is for the future. What of the present situation? Paul concludes the book of Acts with these words (speaking of the Jews): ‘For this people’s heart has become calloused: they hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes.’ They remain in that tragic condition to this day. But one day they will repent and they will be ready to crown the coming king! Perhaps it will take the horrors we read of in Revelation to bring them to their senses. Given all of this, we should not at all be surprised that Revelation is infused with Old Testament ideas and references, and as we look at this 18th chapter we will note references to God’s people.
So to recap: The church has been caught up to meet the Lord in the air, Israel remains on earth in a state of unbelief, God partly protects them from the wicked intentions of Satan and eventually Israel repents and is ready to receive the king. Before we tackle chapter 18, one more thing: as Satan’s kingdom collapses his fury will turn on God’s people and specifically on Jerusalem, it will be a terrible time and the people will suffer greatly – but God will intervene. I almost feel like cheering as I read Zechariah 14: 3 – ‘Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations! Then the Lord will be ‘King over the whole earth.’’ Stirring stuff!
- The fall of Babylon
Having seen the woman riding the beast and having heard of her demise, John now saw an angel: an angel with great authority and one with such splendour that the earth is illuminated! The angel shouted with a mighty voice: ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the Great!’ Perhaps fallen is used twice as both the religious aspect (the woman) as well as the commercial aspects are about to come to ruination. In case there is any doubt, the angel told John that Babylon is thoroughly infested with wickedness: a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every impure spirit, as well as unclean birds and animals. No doubt Babylon will be superficially attractive but it will be a place of demonic activity. This Babylon has corrupted nations, kings and merchants: the political and commercial systems of Satan’s government. Interestingly God has always been against mankind organising on a global scale: the spirit of the original Babylon was one of disobedience to God and exclusion of God. Interestingly the trends in our world today are all headed in the direction of ‘globalisation.’ Commercial companies want to have ‘global reach’, the drug development teams that work within our company are entitled ‘GDTs’ – Global Development Teams; maximum benefit to patients (as well as profit and sales) come from products developed for the global market. Political organisations too are headed in that direction: in my pharmaceutical world we have drug development guidance produced by governments, but many of the key markets have come together so we have guidelines issued by ICH: International Conference on Harmonisation. Likewise G7, G20, EU, UN etc. My own native country of Scotland now has a vigorous independence movement but the contradictory intention of the nationalists is for independence from the United Kingdom but dependence on the European Union (including adoption of the Euro if they are permitted!). Without acknowledgement and obedience to the king of kings any attempts to form a global rule will end in disaster and it will (and already does) involve nations, kings and merchants. The nations will be drunk with the ‘maddening wine of the adulteries’ of this system, the kings of the earth commit ‘adulteries with her’ and the merchants get rich from her ‘excessive luxuries.’ The systems for global harmonization, cooperation and trade are already in place – the bible is ahead of the curve.
- A call to God’s people
John heard another voice from heaven: ‘come out of her, my people.’ This is Israel and it’s a call to dissociate God’s people from the snare of this system, from its sins and from its coming judgement. Babylon, the home of demons is no place for God’s people. Interestingly Israel has already been warned about this very event way back in the time of Jeremiah. In chapter 51 verse 6 we read these prophetic words: ‘Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the Lord’s vengeance; he will pay her what she deserves. Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk.’ It’s time for Satan’s system to fall: the voice John heard said ‘give her as much torment and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself.’ The end of this system will be quick: ‘therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire.’
I’m reminded of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his wife. They were part of Abraham’s entourage but on account of the size of their respective herds and cattle Lot parted company from Abraham. Lot chose to live amongst the men of Sodom. There came a time when the wickedness of Sodom reached such a degree that God had to intervene. Interestingly the sins of Sodom are the very sins that are paraded with pride by politicians and leaders of our society in the present day. Lot and his wife had to run for their lives before God’s judgement came and God in his mercy sent two angels to speed their departure. But Lot was reluctant to leave and his two sons in law ignored the warning. In the end, Lot, his wife and two daughters had almost to be dragged out of the city by the two angels. Then God’s judgement fell. Lot and his family escaped but his wife ‘looked back, and became a pillar of salt.’ In the same way God’s people will need to remove themselves from the Babylonian system or else they will become entangled in God’s devastating judgement. Is there a lesson here for us in our day and age? Perhaps there is. We must live in this world, we need to earn money, we need to engage with ‘the system.’ But we must be careful not to become too fond of the system of this world, perhaps there is a sense in which we ought to ‘come out of her’ if we become too comfortable and intimate with the systems of this world. We used to sing in Sunday school: ‘store up treasure in the bank of heaven, where no thief can steal it away, there you’ll find it, safely waiting for you, when you get to heaven, some day!’ Wise words that a child can understand and act on: how about us, where are we investing our time and resources?
This Satanic empire will consider itself untouchable: ‘I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.’ But the end will come rapidly, the voice from heaven says ‘Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.’
- The response of kings and merchants
The kings of the earth, who have become entangled with this system and have benefitted from it, weep and mourn when they see it come to an end. But they are terrified too. John heard them say ‘Woe! woe to you, great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour your doom has come!’ Whilst there seems little doubt that Babylon is representative of a system, John’s report of what he is shown seems to indicate that this system is represented by a single city. As I write this I’m on my way by train to the great city of London: I will arrive at London Bridge station and take in the view of ‘the city’ with its impressive new buildings and display of power and wealth: they say the money men and bankers are the ‘masters of the universe.’ But all of this will come to nothing!
The merchants shown to John will weep and mourn too! Their source of wealth has gone with Babylon’s fall. John lists seven categories of their trade: 1). Gold, silver, precious stones. 2). Fine linen, silk and scarlet cloth. 3). Every sort of citron wood and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble. 4). Cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense. 5). Of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat. 6). Cattle and sheep; horses and carriages, and finally and disturbingly 7). Human beings sold as slaves. It is all lost in God’s judgement. Do we as believers have a loose hold on these temporal things and a firm grasp on eternal things?
The merchants will state ‘in one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin.’ In 2008 the banking system came close to collapse; the cause was greed fuelled by lies. The problem started in the USA, through a flawed system people effectively stole money from the US banks as they took loans on properties, loans that were greater than the value of the assets. When these individuals defaulted on the payments (pocketing tens of thousands of dollars in the process), the US banks packaged up the bad debt and sold it with a triple A label to other banks. The Northern Rock bank went bust and the Royal Bank of Scotland only survived because the UK government stepped in to support it with tax payers’ money. Billions of pounds were lost – the whole system came close to total collapse. The entire world commercial system for all its wealth and opulence is built on sand! One day it will fall. But even after it falls people will mourn it rather than seeking the truth.
The sea captains and the sailors who earn their living by transporting goods from one nation to another will look at the devastation and say ‘was there ever a city like this great city?….in one hour she has been brought to ruin.’ The kings will mourn, the merchants will mourn, the sea captains will mourn, but truth and justice will rejoice!
- The fall of Babylon: time to rejoice!
The fall of Babylon is a time to rejoice. The voice from heaven states: ‘rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice you people of God! Rejoice, apostles and prophets! For God has judged her with the judgement she imposed on you.’
John saw a mighty angel throw a boulder the size of a millstone into the sea: a picture of the violent end that will befall Babylon. The city will become utterly desolate. The normal events of a thriving city will cease, no music, no work, no light, no marriages and family life. The merchants were the masters of the universe, but not anymore. The place that spilled the blood of the prophets and God’s holy people will be no more. Rejoice! The reason for rejoicing is not just that this system is brought to nothing but that this makes way for a new kingdom that will never end. Nebuchadnezzar the great king of Babylon saw this day in his dream. As Daniel interpreted the dream he concluded with these words: In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. Time to rejoice? – most definitely.