July 10: Revelation 18:1-3
Like we saw last week in Revelation 11, one aspect of the world to come is a judgment on the world as it is now. If we’re really going to grasp the beauty and urgency of the Kingdom of God then we must also understand the corruption and wickedness of the “kingdom of man.” In our text this week, “Babylon” is a figurative representation for that kingdom and, in summary, the final victory of Jesus comes with her defeat.
Vintage Downtown: This week kicked off Connect 4, which will run until August 14. Connect 4 is a challenge to engage in an intentional conversation with someone who is different from you. Get more details, including the guided discussion handout, here: vintagenc.com/connect-4.
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” The news of Jesus’ victory comes like news off the battlefield, and echoes similar pronouncements in Isaiah 13 and Jeremiah 50-51. The rest of the chapter turns to kings, merchants, and sailors who each mourn the fall of Babylon because they had benefited from her in some way. Babylon is judged for her immorality and wrongful gain, and the language of drunkenness, sexual immorality, and luxury paints this picture of how the kingdom of man traffics not in justice, equality, or uprightness but in wrongful gain and exploitation, through clouding minds rather than opening eyes, through indulgence rather than generosity.
But this kingdom is also tied to cosmic forces of evil that empower and undergird it—”For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”(Eph. 6:12). Even the most glittering image of earthly kingdoms, Babylon in all her glory, is still a “haunt” for ungodliness (Rev. 18:2).
Thus, the Kingdom of God comes as both a blessing to the world and a repudiation of Babylon and her ways. This is critical because her destiny is destruction, and in our discussion we’ll turn to Jeremiah 50:28-34 to fill out our understanding of why God will judge the kingdom of man. There we see Babylon has earned her judgment (v.29), that she has proudly defied God (v.29), and that she has mistreated God’s people (v.33). When we think about God’s judgment, we have to interact with the feelings it stirs up within us (as we’ll do in discussion). Do we think he judges in truth and justice (Rev. 19:2)? Is his wrath towards sin justified? Is he right to cast down those who have defied him and mistreated his people?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have some misgivings about judgment in the Bible. It isn’t pretty, it doesn’t endear Christians to their non-Christian neighbors, and it’s abrasively against the sort of pluralism that our society so proudly defends. So, we’ll turn to Isaiah 42:1-9 to interact with those misgivings some, to see how God’s plan for the world through his Servant, Jesus, is not merely to tear down but to build up. Where the earth is plagued with injustice, Jesus’ kingdom brings justice (v.1). Where the kingdom of man exploits and oppresses the poor and marginalized, God’s kingdom is tender towards the bruised and fainting (v.3). Where Babylon clouds the minds of her subjects, Jesus himself opens the eyes of the blind and frees the prisoner (v.7; cf. Rev. 18:4).
In short, judgment on the kingdom of man removes evil, but all that leaves is emptiness. God’s plan is completed in Jesus’ kingdom of salvation which promises to fill the void left by evil with justice and righteousness. That is God’s plan for the world, and that plan can give us immense hope now. God is working this very second to bring his kingdom into the world, to seek and to save lost men and women and bring his reign on earth as it is in heaven as both a picture and promise of the world to come.
• Could someone read Revelation 18:1-8 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• In verse 2 “Babylon” represents the kingdom of this world as opposed to the kingdom of God. What do you think this passage is saying about those two kingdoms?
• Let’s turn to Jeremiah 50:28-34. Could someone read that for us?
• What is Babylon judged for here?
• When you think about God’s intent to judge the kingdoms of the world, what feelings does that stir up in you?
• Let’s turn to Isaiah 42:1-9. Could someone read that for us?
• What can this tell us about God’s plan for the world through Jesus?
• How can this passage give you hope?