Image above is by David Roberts, “Israelites Leaving Egypt,” 1828; public domain from Wikipedia.
Chapter 18 warns believers to stay away as much as is possible from involvement with the world system.
Free Stock Photo in High Resolution – Mountain Edge
Jesus’s High Priestly prayer, gives the dangerous mountain’s-edge believers must walk—(1) We are in the world on Christ’s mission; (2) We are not of the world, to adopt its thinking and ways. John 17:14-19—
14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
“Nobody wants to be out of it; we want to be ‘with it.’ We want to be up-to-date. We want to fit in. And we’re often engulfed by peer pressure that wants us to imitate and participate in all of the structures and the styles of this world. The Bible says we are not to be conformed to the patterns of this world.” — R. C. Sproul
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [ESV]
I like Phillips translation of Romans 12:2 Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. (see Bible Gateway below).
In Revelation 18:4-8 God is calling for an exodus of His people from the world system.
I. We must steer clear of the allurements of the “world system” (Babylon) so we will not experience the spillover effects when God judges it. vs. 4.
vs. 4 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…
This command can be taken three different ways: (1) it can be taken as a warning to 1st Century Christians to steer clear of Rome’s allurements; (2) it can be taken as a broad warning; in this case it would be a warning for those living in all times; or (3) it can be taken as a command for the future Christians who live will through tribulation at the end of the age and who might be tempted to give into Babylon’s allurements. Regardless of which view is taken, the warning is a real one, and is valid at any time. The warning is directed toward those who are tempted to give into the world system just to get along (e.g. “you gotta go along to get along”). Conformity to the world has dire consequences. The word “share in” is sunkoinoneō. The cognate verb koinoneō is the regular NT word for “fellowship.” The idea is that if we share in the sinful pleasures of this world, we will also share in the effects of the judgment of this world, as well.
Those who refuse to submit to Babylon’s cultural norms, will stand out from the group who do. This will bring persecution. (See image above picturing the three Hebrew youths who refuse to bow down to ancient Babylonian statue. Image from https://www.slideserve.com/zayit/daniel-chapter-4-toppled-images)
II. We should realize God’s permitting of the world’s sins to go unpunished is only temporary. vs. 5
vs. 5 … for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
The word “piled up” is the Greek word kollaō—”to reach” or “to touch.” In this case the sins have touched heaven. Compare Genesis 18:20-21—20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
The phrase “the Lord has remembered” (mnemoneuō) must be taken in its Old Testament connotation. The Lord has not forgotten Babylon’s previous sins in the sense that “they slipped his mind.” That is the way we use the words “forget” and “remember.” In the Old Testament times, God simply postponed his judgment until a fixed time in the future. His forgetting was deliberate and planned from eternity. So also was His remembrance! Compare Romans 3:23-26, which speaks of “in [God’s] divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.” And Acts 17:30-31. Lamentations 3:22-23 is of great comfort to those who suffer unjustly! God’s mercies are renewed like the dew, every morning.
III. We must realize that godless people’s sins have judgment built into their sin. vs. 6
vs. 6 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.
Note that God sees the heart of Babylon. Our judgment is flawed; we only see the outward actions. God sees the internal heart attitude. The verb streniaō means to “live in the lap of luxury.” The woman says that she will never mourn (ou me, the Greek double negative). The double negative emphasizes her arrogant spirit. She trusted in her luxuries and riches to insulate her against all suffering. God sees to it she experiences grief commensurate with her arrogance.
There was once a tyrant who summoned one of his subjects into his presence, and ordered him to make a chain. The poor blacksmith…had to go to work and forge the chain. When it was done, he brought it into the presence of the tyrant, and was ordered to take it away and make it twice the length. He brought it again to the tyrant, and again he was ordered to double it. Back he came when he had obeyed the order, and the tyrant looked at it, and then commanded the servants to bind the man hand and foot with the chain he had made and cast him into prison.
My friends, that is just what [addicted persons] do — that is just what every sinner is doing. But thank God, we can tell them of a deliverer. The Son of God has power to break every one of their fetters if they will only come to Him. (see Moody, P. 57-58, below.)
Satan and his carefully choreographed this world’s system offer a number of allurements that make can us a captive of our own appetites. If we indulge in the alluring bait, we are not satisfied. Going in for more binds us more tightly to this world system. God saves us from Satan’s traps in the world in which we live if we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and live according to His Word!
“Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us on a wild-goose chase. Follow some other object, and possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.” (Nathaniel Hawthorne from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/nathaniel_hawthorne_163048)
King Midas (pictured right) got what his heart longed for. How he loved gold! Now everything he touched turned to gold. An oak twig. A rock. He had what his heart treasured, until his little girl comes running into his arms. How fatal the Midas’ touch! (see King Midas, below.) Most nursery rhymes have a moral lesson within them. How many a man who is ruthless in business later decries that all his children care about is his money! Our children and grandchildren may get entrapped along with us if we crave the Midas touch!
‘The Destruction of a City’ by David Roberts, 1832;
Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
IV. What takes mankind centuries to build can come down in one day when God judges. vs. 8
vs. 8 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.”
The wealth that she trusts in will not be able to insulate her against the judgment of the Lord. The time frame involved is “one day’s time” (en mia hmera). The plagues (plēgē) are described as death (thanatos) , grief or mourning (penthos), and famine or hunger (limos) . The city meets its end by being burned with fire (katakaiō “to consume or burn thoroughly”). The preposition kata attached to the verb kaiō is perfective. It means to burn completely. The Lord who is able to do this in such a quick fashion is said to be “mighty” (ischyros).
We will move on the next section of Revelation 18 next time.
(Commentaries on which I rely sometimes without direct quotation)
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
Bible Gateway. (1960). Accessed from https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Romans+12:2
Costain, T. B. (1958). The Three Edwards, Vol III from A History of the Plantagenets, accessed 17 March 2001 from http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/l/lust.htm
ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com
Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).
King Midas. (2009). Story application by Gregg Bitter accessed 15 March 2021 from https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/73972/king-midas-got-what-his-heart-longed-for-how-he-by-gregg-bitter
Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.
Moody, D. L. (1878). Anecdotes and Illustrations of D. L. Moody Related by Him in His Revival Work. Washington, DC: Rhodes & McClure, Publishers.
Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Rockefeller, J. D. (n.d.) “Daily Short Story” blog; accessed 15 March 2021 from https://starwinar.wordpress.com/daily-short-story/just-a-little-bit-more/
Sproul, R. C. (1996). “How should we be in the world but not of it?” Accessed 15 March 2021 from https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/how-should-we-be-in-the-world-but-not-of-it-11577549.html
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