Reading for Wednesday, Dec 5: Revelation 18
Revelation 18 is both a lament and a hymn of praise. John borrows much of the language and imagery of the OT lamentations that lament the sins of Israel and the desire for Babylon’s judgment (see, for instance, Ps. 137:8 and Isa. 21:9). John takes the well worn biblical genre of lament and turns it on its head, this time giving voice to those who have been seduced by the empire’s sensual and economic benefits.
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (v1). As with the prophets of old, John announces what is sure to happen as already having occurred. Babylon / Rome is being shamed, proven to be a false reality. The voice calls out, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins; lest you share in her plagues,” (v4). This is a final word of grace, an opportunity to leave Babylon before it is eternally too late. We recall the words Jesus spoke to the seven churches at the beginning, many of whom have accommodated Rome’s provocative call. The great city is a dwelling place of pride: “…in her heart she says, ‘I sit as a queen, I am no widow and mourning I shall never see,’ (v7).”
The kings of earth and the merchants come late to the realization: Rome represents false hope. Power, economic trade, sensual pleasure…these are not the sum of human existence. “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more,” (v21). “No more” is the refrain from heaven, announcing Babylon’s demise. We should hear in this God’s final answer to the cry of His people: “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).
Heaven’s answer is final.
No more is Babylon.
No more are her seductions.
No more is her jubilation.
No more is her bloodlust.
What follows, as we shall see, is the pinnacle of praise.