CDPCKL · The Destruction of the City of Man (Revelation 18:1-20)

The Destruction of the City of Man (Revelation 18:1-20)

The city of Thyatira in ancient Roman Asia was the smallest and the least important of the seven cities that Jesus talked to in the first few chapters of Revelation. But Thyatira had a few things going for it: 

First, it was a major transportation and manufacturing hub, especially for shoes, cloth dyeing, and bronze-smithing. Second, it was a military town, which meant government contracts. Third, the official god of the city was Apollo  the Destroyer, the son of Zeus and the god of the Roman emperor. Fourth, the citizens of Thyatira were busy, ambitious, hard-working people: they were determined to “make it”. 

Which meant they expected everyone in town to join a trade union and make themselves useful. That is fine! except that every trade union was sponsored by a god or a goddess. And every member was expected to worship their union’s god. Every member was expected to pay dues to support the union shrine. And every member was expected to join the regular religious feasts dedicated to the union’s god. It was feared that, if anyone refused to participate, the god might get angry and ruin the union’s good luck. So, even though there was no law requiring participation, there was a lot of social pressure on the Christians of Thyatira. 

So this is what Jesus had to say to them: 

[18] “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God 

this is Jesus, the son of the True God, not Apollo, the son of Zeus — 

whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 

Roman soldiers wore bronze armour on their feet and legs, they were a regular sight on the streets of Thyatira. Jesus is describing himself as a warrior here, a warrior with blazing, all-seeing eyes. 

That sounds ominous! 

But then he says something good: [19] I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 

The Christians of Thyatira were busy, hard-working people, just like everyone else in their city. They are building, they are expanding, their churches are growing — and in good ways, too: the members love one another, and they love the people in their communities. They are generous with their time and money, and completely willing to identify themselves as “Christians” in public. 

That’s great! 

[20] Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 

Uh oh. Within the church there is a woman who claims to hear directly from the Holy Spirit. Which, by itself, is okay — every Christian hears directly from the Holy Spirit. But the Spirit’s voice speaks more and more clearly only as a believer grows in their grasp of God’s Word. And this woman is teaching something that is the absolute opposite of what the Spirit says in God’s Word: she is saying it is okay for Christians to worship the trade union gods, join in the trade union feasts. Because, after all, if Christians do not participate, they will be labeled “anti-social”, they will lose jobs, Christianity will get a bad reputation — and that is just not good evangelism, amirite? 

So apparently there are three main groups within the church in Thyatira. First, there is a movement of very obviously false teachers at work among the congregations. Second, many members have been led into false worship by the movement’s “prophecies”. But the worst problem in the church is actually among those who who do not follow Jezebel’s teachings, but still “tolerate” her. They know her teachings are false — or maybe they aren’t really sure? In any case, they have not called her or her followers to repentance. 

So now Jesus is going to have to do that work himself: 

[21] I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. [22] So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. [23] I will strike her children dead. 

Jezebel is past the point of no return. As the Apostle James says in his book, because she has seized the title of Teacher, she will be judged more strictly. She has been sleeping in a bed of adultery and idolatry, so Jesus is going to turn it into a bed of suffering. And the children she has given spiritual birth to — her collection of unrepentant false converts — will be struck dead along with her. 

But those who once knew the true gospel, and then were fooled by her false prophecies — they are like Jezebel’s lovers, which is terrible. And yet, as terrible as it is, Jesus is giving them one more chance to do the hard work of repenting. They will suffer the same judgement as their mistress. If they repent, their intense suffering will have been a corrective judgement. If they do not repent, their intense suffering will turn into an eternal judgement: they will be struck dead. 

Then, Jesus says, all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 

Jesus’ purifying discipline has at least two purposes: he wants those who are disciplined to wake up and repent — but he also wants the rest of the churches to watch and learn, so they can avoid making the same mistakes. 

Jesus is the one who searches hearts and minds. It is easy for us to lie to ourselves about our true motivations. Like Jezebel and her followers, it is easy for us to tell ourselves that the real reason we are compromising with the world system is for evangelistic reasons. But Jesus knows the truth, and he will repay each of us according to our deeds: if we confess our unfaithfulness and repent, he will repay our debt with his own life; if we do not, then he will repay us according to what we have done. 

But now, Jesus says, to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, [25] except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ 

So apparently there is a fourth group in Thyatira: a remnant who have not followed or even tolerated Jezebel’s teachings. They have not been fooled into thinking that Jezebel is actually a true prophet. She claims the Holy Spirit has given her some special “deep secrets” unknown to others — but this faithful remnant knows that, really, she is teaching Satan’s “deep secrets”. They have spoken up. They have reasoned from God’s Word, proving that Jezebel is full of nonsense. They have been calling their fellow church members to repentance, again and again. 

And they have lost. Apparently most of the church in Thyatira follows Jezebel’s teaching. Christianity is well-respected by the pagan citizens of Thyatira — but only because it is not true Christianity anymore. It is a new, “tolerant”, all-accepting version of the faith, and — unfortunately — it makes true Christianity look unloving and strict by comparison. Almost the whole church is now saying, “Come on, guys! Look at how loving and accepting we are! Look at all the programs we are running for the poor! Even Jesus says we are now doing more than we did at first, and we could not do any of these good things if we refused to participate in pagan worship! So we must be following God’s will.” 

And how can these few remaining faithful Christians argue with such obvious success? 

So now Jesus is telling them, “It’s okay. You have done all that you can, and you have finished your testimony. At this point all I require is for you to just hold on until I come.“ 

[26] To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— [27] that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ —just as I have received authority from my Father. [28] I will also give that one the morning star. [29] Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 

There will be a war at the end of the age. The counterfeit trinity — of the dragon, the beast from the Abyss, and the false prophet — will flood the world with false prophecies and deceiving miracles, all designed to gather the nations into one monstrous Christianity-killing coalition. 

And everything in the Book of Revelation indicates that the way Satan’s coalition will actually kill Jesus’ Church in the end is by fooling many “Christians” into joining his coalition. Through those false prophecies” and  deceiving miracles Satan will set up a counterfeit church that looks so much more vivid and exciting and alive than the real Church: it will offer all the benefits of Christianity, it will do all the “good works” of Christianity…but without the Cross, without the suffering and rejection, without the exclusivity that is so unattractive. It will pretend to be a new kind of tolerant, all-accepting religion, it will redefine what true love means in a way that will actually make true Christianity look unloving and strict by comparison. And so far in the Book of Revelation, this counterfeit church, this religious system has been figuratively called Babylon the Great. 

Now, Babylon the Great was first mentioned by name in Chapter 14, but it was only last week that we got our first close-up look at Satan’s capital city. And what we saw was a woman who actually looked a lot like Jezebel: a self-proclaimed prophet, pretending to be one of God’s priests, claiming mastery over God’s cup of judgement and blessing, claiming the right to rule over the beast from the Abyss, the global coalition of nations that is also her husband. She thought she held all the reins of power — religious, political, military, economic — and in her arrogance she did not see how tenuous her grip really was. She essentially seized a tiger by its tail and twisted it to make it do what she wanted, and right at the end of last week’s vision we were told how the tiger turned and tore her to pieces, ate her flesh and burned her with fire. 

So now John’s vision picks up where it left off: [1] After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 

And this is actually the fourth time now that we have seen an angel coming from somewhere with something in his possession. The first was an an angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. The second was an angel coming down from heaven, holding a little scroll. The third was an angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel. And each of those angels signaled an interlude, where the vision was paused and rewound so that John could get another look at what just happened from another perspective. 

So here we have another angel coming down from heaven, and he has great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor: this is now another interlude. We are about to get another look at what just happened. 

And sure enough: 

[2] With a mighty voice he shouted: “’Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal. 

The angel is quoting from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament: these were the Isaiah’s curses upon the original Babylon. 

The original Babylon was an ancient city built in a wilderness beside the Persian Gulf, but she had used the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to turn that wilderness into a productive paradise, building a broad network of canals to bring water into the desert. A good thing, surely! 

Except that ancient Babylon only accomplished these ”good” technological miracles through slave labour. 

Also, in the minds of ancient people, the wilderness was the rightful realm of demons and impure spirits. Just because the desert has been transformed to look like a productive garden does not mean the evil spirits have been pushed out: they are still there, just…under the surface, gathering their strength, waiting for the right moment to come swarming back up, destroy the gardens and take their territory back. 

Basically, Isaiah was saying that ancient Babylon was an illusion: she looked powerful and beautiful and life-giving, but she was actually built over an abyss of human and demonic slaves, and someday those underground forces would rise up against her, tear her down, and live amidst the ruins. 

Here, the angel is declaring that the reincarnated Babylon at the end of time will have the same characteristics, and will share the same fate. 

Next, the angel explains why: [3] For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” 

Just like ancient Babylon, the reincarnated Babylon will drug the nations with promises of prosperity and power. And not just promises: she will actually deliver prosperity and power to those who worship her, knowing that — as the kings and merchants of the earth gorge on what she feeds them — she is really just fattening them for the slaughter. And because she has treated human beings made in God’s image as a commodity, a natural resource to be led away from true worship and consumed at her leisure, for this she will be judged. 

[4] Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “ ‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; [5] for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. 

And here again these are Old Testament quotations from the prophet Isaiah and the prophet Jeremiah, calling God’s Old Testament people to “Flee from Babyon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins.” 

Now, in the Old Testament, the reason the prophets had to say this is because God’s people had been enslaved by Babylon: they had been forced to live in the Babylonian empire, and they needed to know when it was time to run. So the fact that the voice from heaven is repeating this command tells us that, at the end of the age, God’s New Testament people will also be living in the reincarnated Babylonian empire. We will have no choice, because Babylon the Great will have completely filled the earth by that time — there will be nowhere else to live! 

And this actually gives us a deeper answer to a question we have been asking for the last couple of weeks. We were wondering why John talks sometimes as if Babylon and Jerusalem are really the same city. Last week we discovered that Babylon pretends to be Jerusalem, which was a partial explanation. But here we are discovering that Babylon and Jerusalem really are the same city, because: wherever Satan’s people live, that is Babylon, and wherever Jesus’ people live, that is the true Jerusalem, and since Christians and non-Christians live intermixed in every nation on earth, every nation on earth is Babylon and Jerusalem, the empire of the beast and the kingdom of the Son of God. 

In short, right up until the very end God’s people are going to be living alongside those who refuse to be God’s people, just like Noah’s family did before the flood, just like Lot’s family did in the city of Sodom, just like Moses’ people did in Egypt. The Church will be publically crushed and discredited in the end, no doubt many Christians will be physically killed, but — as the Apostle Paul indicates in his writings — a lot of us will still be alive, but marginalized, voiceless, our testimony finished, simply waiting for our redemption. For three and a half symbolic days we will lie in the public square of the great symbolic city — which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, and false Jerusalem, and reincarnated Babylon, and Rome. The nations will gloat over our defeat and will celebrate by sending each other gifts…while they also begin to turn against one another and against the great city that gathered them together in the first place. They were united — briefly — by their hatred of the true Jerusalem; but once the true Jerusalem is out of the way, their fragile alliance will fall apart and they will even turn against the counterfeit Jerusalem, the city that is called Babylon the Great. 

But after the three and a half days, the seventh trumpet will sound, and a loud voice from heaven will say, “Come up here. Come out of her, my people!” And then — just like Noah’s family when they were told to board the ark; just like Lot’s family when the angels said, “Flee for your lives!”; just like Moses’ nation when the command came for them to march out at midnight — we who have done God’s will to the end will stand up, on our feet. We will lift our heads. And even as Babylon begins to consume herself from the inside out and from the bottom up, we will be caught up in a cloud to meet our Lord in the air as he descends in final judgement with all the armies of heaven at his side. 

And this is why, next, the voice from heaven goes on with a special command for those armies of angels: [6] “Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Pour her a double portion from her own cup. [7] Give her as much torment and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.’” 

What we are seeing here is yet another replay of the great harvest that was first described for us back in Chapter 14: first a loud voice from the temple commanded Jesus to redeem his faithful followers from the earth. Then another loud voice commanded the armies of angels to descend, harvest the rest of mankind and trample them in the great winepress of God’s wrath. Babylon will be paid back according to her deeds, she will reap the suffering she has sown. 

[8] 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. 

When we saw Babylon the Great last week, she was holding God’s sacred cup, which she had defiled with her own selfish ambitions. She had claimed the power to distribute God’s judgements and God’s blessings as she saw fit. She had no idea that by drinking from God’s cup she was actually drinking God’s judgement upon herself. 

Basically, this vision is the final fuffillment of the Old Testament King Belshazzar of Babylon. He had also proclaimed himself king and god over the whole world. And to prove it he had also taken God’s sacred cups from the temple so that his wives and concubines could defile them! — and in a single night he also lost everything. An invading army dried up the waters of the Euphrates river, crept through a tunnel under the city wall, and by the time the sun rose the next morning Babylon the Great was no more. 

So at this point, now, the vision zooms in on the effect Babylon’s fall will have on three kinds of people, the ones who depended on her the most. First, [9] “the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury, when they see the smoke of her burning, will stand far off and cry: “ ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour your doom has come!’” 

Then [11] “the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore…they will stand far off, terrified at her torment and cry out: “ ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’” 

And finally, “every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. They will throw dust on their heads, and cry out: “ ‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin!’” 

Now, these verses are — again — quotations from the Old Testament, from the prophet Ezekiel, as he described the historic fall of Tyre’s vast trading empire, and how the kings and merchants of the surrounding nations wept over the loss of their revenue at that time. 

But we have actually met these people before: back in Chapter 6, when the whole world system began to fall apart and the kings, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else begged the mountains to fall and hide them from God’s descending judgement. 

We also saw this concept developed further during the Cycle of the Seven Trumpets, when we saw something like a huge mountain thrown into the sea, and a third of the ships were destroyed. At that time, we interpreted this as a symbol for how the fall of some unnamed empire will completely disrupt the economy of one third of the earth. Well, this chapter is now confirming that our interpretation was correct: just as that unnamed empire back in Chapter 8 destroyed the economy of one third of the world, so also the fall of Babylon the Great at the end of our age will destroy the economy of the whole world. Before these kings and merchants beg for the mountains to hide them from God’s judgement, they will first witness the complete collapse of everything they depended on. 

And we have to notice that, even though the kings, the land merchants, and the sea merchants are all devastated by the fall of Babylon, they are not sad for Babylon, they are only sad for how their own profits will be affected. Notice how they do not rush in to see if there are any survivors? Instead they all stand far off and cry, “Oh no! Oh no! This is so terrible…for us!” Because the truth is these are the nations who actually hated Babylon and turned against her. She devoured them by making them rich; and then, when they thought they were rich enough to fight back they devoured her, thinking this was their opportunity to rise up and escape from slavery. And now, too late, they discover that they have killed — and the angels of God helped them kill! — the goose that was laying the golden eggs. 

And now the vision zooms out to see what effect the fall of Babylon is supposed to have on those of us who are watching the destruction from even further away: [20] “Rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice, you people of God! Rejoice, apostles and prophets! For God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you.” 

By this point in the vision, all of God’s remaining people, the few who have remained faithful to the end, have been called out, called up to meet our Lord in the air. We look down, completely unaffected, as Satan’s bestial civilization completely falls apart. And how are we supposed to respond? “Rejoice over her! Rejoice, you people of God! 

But from where we stand now, at this point in history, this command to rejoice over the collapse of human civilization sounds cruel. We Christians have been trained by our faith to have compassion upon the lost, and when we think about the suffering that must take place on the earth in these last moments, we cannot help but feel a bit…strange. We wonder how the gentle, self-sacrificing Lamb of God can suddenly transform into this lion, this warrior whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze, who commands us to dance and sing with glee as we watch the great city burn, devoured by the swarming creatures of the Abyss. Every week in our worship we ask for the strength to love our enemies, to forgive those who have sinned against us. So how can we, as loving Christians, rejoice over this horror? 

There is only one real explanation for why Jesus would command the heavens to rejoice over a horror like this, and that is if the torment of Babylon’s final destruction is actually going to be better than the torment Babylon has been pouring out upon the earth. 

So now we have to ask: just how horrible is Babylon the Great going to become before the end? Earlier in Revelation, John has already described how — for thousands of years — all the nations of the earth have been practicing murders, magic arts, sexual immorality and thefts. How can Babylon the Great be worse than that? 

Well, this is where we are going to go back and take a look at the list of products the merchants described in verses 12 and 13, because this list actually tells us just how completely corrupt Satan’s global civilization will become before the end: 

Cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves. 

Now this is actually a selective list of the products that flowed into the Roman empire during John’s time, and it is well confirmed by other Roman writers. And if we were to go through this list item by item we would find products here from Arabia, from Africa, from Spain, from India, from Malaya, and even from China. That is how massive Rome’s economic empire had become: it was literally trading with one third of the earth’s surface! 

And now we know the identity of the unnamed empire that collapsed during the Cycle of the Seven Trumpets: that was the Roman empire, which apparently was just a foreshadowing of the collapse of Babylon the Great at the end of our age! 

But anyway, getting back to this list: 

We are not going to go through it item by item. Instead we are going to notice how this list is arranged: it begins with the most expensive and luxurious items, and then counts down backwards to the cheapest and most disposable items. What are the first items on the list? Gold, silver, precious stones and pearls. What are the last items? Human beings sold as slaves. A literal translation would say human souls. 

…let’s let that sink in for a moment. In ancient Rome, pearls were thousands of times more valuable than human souls. Cows, sheep, horses and carriages were more valuable than human slaves. 

Friends, whether you are a Christian or not: please agree with me that Rome’s social values were extremely messed up.

And, listen, for those of us who are Christians, we have even more reason to be horrified, because this list of Roman values is exactly the opposite of the values our Heavenly Father set up in the Garden of Eden. Back in the garden, human beings are listed as most valuable; then animals; then fruits and plants and spices, with gold and precious stones last. 

Which makes sense, right? Shouldn’t living things be more valuable than rocks? 

And now, take this horrible ancient Roman social and economic system and expand it to fill the earth, so that every nation is a willing participant: that is what John’s vision is describing here. This is Babylon the Great. 

So, friends, whether you are a Christian or not, please agree with me that it would be right to celebrate the destruction of a system as messed up as this! There are some systems on this earth so horrible that it would actually be an act of supreme compassion and love to smash it to pieces like pottery and then burn the pieces. 


Okay. So now, of course, like we do every week, we have ask what we are supposed to do with this information. What is our practical application? 

We could say that we are supposed to rejoice over the fall of Babylon the Great — but Babylon the Great has not fallen yet. So we’ll need to reserve that application for the future. 

What are we supposed to do today? Is this passage relevant to us at all right now? 

Well, let’s take a good, hard, honest look at our modern civilization. Are our modern values better than ancient Rome’s? Better than ancient Babylon’s? 

In one sense, the values of our modern world are much better. Thanks to the hard work of Christianity over the last 2000 years, the concept of human rights has now spread to almost every nation on earth. Human beings are far more valuable today than they were in ancient times — at least in theory. 

On the other hand, however, minerals — rocks and metals dug out of the earth — are even more valuable to us today than they ever have been in any empire in history. Until a century ago, nations were obsessed with gold and silver and precious stones because they are rare and pretty. Today our entire global society is obsessed with precious metals, not because they are pretty but because they literally make our world run. Our phones, our computers, every system in our world today from cars to sewage plants contain gold, silver, and other even more rare-earth elements that nobody ever heard of 100 years ago. 

Ancient Rome used up millions of slaves to mine the earth for the metals they needed for swords and armour and water-pipes. We are digging deeper and faster than the Romans ever dreamed; we have machines that do nothing but chew up mountains in the search for minerals, machines that in many nations are operated by slaves: under-educated, underpaid, without proper protection or health care. When they get sick from breathing toxic industrial fumes, they are discarded and replaced, because — you know what? — rocks are thousands of times more valuable than human souls. And every nation on earth today is a willing participant in this system. 

This is Babylon the Great, brothers and sisters. What else can it be? 

And yet, once again, thanks to all this amazing technology, things are better off today than ever before. 70 years ago, a very small percentage of people on earth had electricity and medicine and clean running water. Today, almost everyone on earth has access to these things. 100 years ago it was common for women to die in childbirth, it was common for babies to die in infancy; today that is more and more rare. Just as ancient Babylon harnessed the power of rivers to transform deserts into farmland, so also we have harnessed the resources of the earth and used them to turn the wilderness of the world into a productive garden. Surely these are all good things! 

Yes. They are good things. It is good for babies to live rather than die. It is good to drink clean water rather than diseased water. And, really, bringing life and order into the wilderness is what God designed us to do. This is our calling as human beings, and especially as Christians: to expand God’s garden, to expand God’s city of Jerusalem until all the earth is filled with the knowledge of God. And many of the good things happening in our world today are the fruit of Christian faithfulness going back centuries. 

But, just like God’s Old Testament people, we who are citizens of the true spiritual Jerusalem are also living in the midst of Satan’s spiritual Babylon. The good things we manage to do as Christians are often swallowed up by the good things Babyon the Great does, because Babylon the Great is very rich, very powerful, and very good at self-promotion. In fact, in most cases, she  takes credit for the good work we Christians do in our small, quiet way. Just like the ancient city of Babylon, our modern global Babylon claims that she is the one who is taming the wilderness of the world. In her heart she boasts, “I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn!” 

But before we are tempted to believe this propaganda, we have to remember what Isaiah told us, what John is telling us: Babylon’s power is all an illusion. The truly good things that are happening in our world really are real! — but they rest upon such a fragile foundation. Just like ancient Babylon, our modern civilization looks powerful and beautiful and life-giving, but it is actually built over an abyss of human and demonic slave labour, and those dark spirits are not gone, they are still here, just…under the surface, working behind the scenes, gathering their strength, waiting for the just right moment to come swarming back up out of the darkness like a plague of locusts and consume everything that is sweet and good about this world. 

So: is this passage relevant to us at all right now? 

Yes. John’s vision is describing our world just as much as it is describing the ancient worlds of Babylon and Rome. 

Okay then! What are we supposed to do in response? 

This is Jesus’ command for us today: “Come out of her, my people!“ 

All right. Sounds simple enough. But what does that look like for us? Should we all abandon KL, withdraw from the economy, move into the hutan somewhere and live on fruit until Jesus returns? 

No. There will come a day when, like Noah, like Lot, like Moses’ people, we will hear the voice of the archangel command us to leave, and we will obey! — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. 

But our calling for right now is more like the commands God’s people received from Isaiah and Jeremiah. Both of those prophets told God’s Old Testament people to flee from Babyon, so they would not be destroyed because of her sins. But at that time God’s people were slaves in Babylon, they could not run away until after Babyon’s chains had been broken. So what Isaiah and Jeremiah really meant when they said “Flee from Babyon” was this: do not participate in the values of that inhuman civilization. Yes, you need to work, and buy a house, and plant gardens, and get married, and have kids, you need to participate in the economy. But do not let that Babylonian lust for prosperity and power poison your souls. Do not let your desires lead you into a place where gold and silver and exotic spices and even cows are more valuable than human beings. If you adopt Babylon’s values, then you become Babylon’s willing spiritual slaves as well as her physical slaves, and when the voice of the archangel finally calls you to flee…you will already be too dead to hear it. 

It is the same for us. The values of our world are seriously messed up. Our global economy depends upon commodity trading and speculation, practices forbidden in God’s Old Testament nation, because God sees that sort of economy as inherently unjust and bad for poor people. We, however, do not live in God’s Old Testament nation, we live in the great city — which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, and Jerusalem, and Babylon, and Rome, and Kuala Lumpur, we are thoroughly entangled here, we are slaves to the system in just about every way that matters, and there is not much we can do about that. But we must not let it poison our values! We must not turn aside and follow Jezebel’s advice. She wants us to believe that it is okay to adopt the corrupted values of the society around us, that it is okay to abuse people and resources as long as we use our profits to support her churches and make Christianity look good in the eyes of the world. 

Jesus is telling us: “Come out of her, my people! Hold on to what you have until I come!” 

This is what we have, brothers and sisters: citizenship in a heavenly city where human beings are valued infinitely more than animals, plants and minerals. We are so valuable that the Lion of Judah became a Lamb and traded his life for ours! Why would we ever want to trade that amazing gift for citizenship in a demonic city where human souls are worth less than sheep? 

May it never be! 

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