Pastor Scott Andrews | March 26, 2023
It’s good to be back with you. You say, oh, were you gone? Why yes, I was – went to Seattle to see our new grandson. Actually, Tana had been there for weeks, and it was time for her to come home. Pictures, why yes, we have pictures. This is our daughter Olivia and her husband Josh’s first child – why yes, you’re right, he’s a cutie.
By the way, I also took my books – couldn’t miss reading day. And I’m so glad I did, because you see we finally get to chapter 19 today. Everyone say Hallelujah, since, as you will see, that is what we are supposed to say when we see the judgment and destruction of Babylon the Great. That sounds a bit odd – we should praise God for destroying the great city? We’ll see. But first, let’s finish chapter 18. You’ll remember we’ve been watching Babylon die since chapter 16. A long, slow death. We’ve seen:
16:19 – After the seventh angel poured out his bowl, there was a great earthquake, and “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.”
17:16 – “And the ten horns which you saw [remember, the ten horns are a seeming federation of ten kings – perhaps speaking of all cities and nations and empires of the world], and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh, and will burn her up with fire.” Verse 18 tells us the woman you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth. So in some way, the cities and nations of the world, led by the beast or the Antichrist, will rise up against Babylon – in some way a future city or empire which seems to rule the earth.
By the way, when we looked at chapter 17 a couple weeks ago, that was the first Sunday we introduced note sheets for elementary age children, even middle schoolers. One of the spaces on the sheet says, draw something you heard in the sermon today. I couldn’t wait to see what the kids drew about chapter 17. At the end of the service, Jason Crawford showed me a picture his 7-year-old Sophia drew – here it is. It was perfect – notice – a beast with a rider – if you look closely, you’ll see seven heads with exactly ten horns. Well done, Sophia. Notice the caption, “the girl on the beast.” I guess that’s better than the harlot on the beast.
Anyway, last week in chapter 18, we saw an angel coming down from heaven crying out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” Why had she fallen? (Verses 3,5,) “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality (luxury)…for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” I don’t think you want God to remember your sins. We remember Jeremiah wrote of the New Covenant, speaking of the undeserved mercy of God:
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.
33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
That’s unbelievable, and incredibly, the author of Hebrews applies the provisions of the New Covenant to us – those who believe in the gospel through the work of His Son – God will remember our sins no more. Meaning, He will not hold our sins to our account since they have been atoned/paid for by Jesus. If that doesn’t cause you to say Hallelujah, nothing will.
Babylon, however, has fallen because her sins have been remembered – piled up to heaven, not atoned by grace through faith in Christ. Now, we’ve seen that while the word immorality speaks of sexual immorality, it’s likely a reference to idolatry – and all that comes with it. In the OT, whenever Israel worshipped false gods, it was often referred to as being unfaithful – adultery, immorality. But think about it, if you leave the true God and His character and commands, you are free to indulge in all kinds of sin, to include immorality. Exactly why many do leave – walk away – deconstruct – apostatize. Deny the faith – to engage in sin.
Then from verses 9-19 of chapter 18, we see three groups of people singing a funeral dirge for the destruction of Babylon. That’s fascinating, why would they do that? Because, we noticed some similarities with these three groups:
- In all of them, those lamenting the fall of Babylon have somehow been involved with her.
- In all three, they cry out, woe, woe, because the city is no more.
- In all three, they stand at a distance, because they know they deserve her punishment, and they don’t want to get too close.
- In all three, they notice the swiftness of her destruction: in one hour your judgment has come.
- And in all three, their mourning is not so much for her, but for themselves, for what they lose because she is no more.
The first group was the kings who committed immorality and lived sensually with her. The second group was the merchants of the earth, because no one buys their cargo anymore. We looked at the list of luxury items and noted we have many of them at home. Something to ponder. We also saw the merchants had grown rich from Babylon. Which brings us to the third group to lament her passing, found in verses 17-19. Let’s read it.
By the way, this is the outline of chapter 18 from last week:
- The Fall of Babylon (1-3)
- The Call for Believers to Flee Babylon (4-8)
- The Funeral Dirges for Babylon (9-19)
- The Call for Heaven and God’s People to Rejoice (20)
- The Results of the Destruction of Babylon (21-24)
We’re near the end of that third point. And by the way, we’ll get into chapter 19 today where we will see all of heaven and earth responding to the call from heaven for God’s people to rejoice.
Now, don’t miss the similarities to the other groups we saw last week. First, we see these people of the sea – which include the shipmasters or captains, the passengers, and the sailors – all those who make their living by the sea were lamenting the destruction of Babylon because they made their living through her by carrying the merchants and their cargo to her. More, they were made rich. Everyone was getting a piece of the action and were thereby culpable.
They were standing at a distance – not wanting to get too close because they were involved with her. They cry out, what city is like the great city? What a response. She was the greatest of all cities of the earth – leading the rest into idolatry and immorality. I can’t help but wonder how the people of our nation – if we still exist – will respond to the destruction of our great cities of power and wealth.
These people of the sea lament further, throwing dust on their heads, an outward symbol of severe mourning. And they cry out, woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth. As we’ve noted, their mourning is selfish, for they had become rich by their trade. And they lament her passing, for in one hour she has been laid waste. One hour speaking of a short period of time – all three laments seem to express shock by the speed with which she is no more.
Leading to our next point, the call for all of heaven and God’s people to not lament, but to rejoice over her destruction. Look at verse 20, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgments for you against her.”
At first glance, this appears a little shocking – you mean, we’re supposed to rejoice because Babylon and all she represents gets hers – gets what was coming to her? In a word, yes. What’s the deal – how is it believers are supposed to rejoice in – celebrate – the destruction of Babylon – which is clearly not talking just about buildings and commerce and economics? What about the people? We rejoice over the judgment, condemnation and eternal destruction of people?
Notice the end of verse 20, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her. That presupposes, by the way, that you are not her. That you have been oppressed by her. Drop down to verse 24, “And in her [that is, Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain [believers is the idea] on the earth.” Chapter 19, verse 2, “for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.” And we remember way back in chapter 6, when the fifth seal was opened, we read:
9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;
10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.
We saw the souls of those awaiting future resurrection of their bodies under the altar, crying out to God for their blood to be avenged on the earth – on those who had martyred them because of their faith. And they were given a white robe and told to rest for a little while, until all those to be killed would be killed. And there will be many during the tribulation, who will maintain their testimony in Jesus. They will refuse allegiance to the Antichrist, they will refuse the mark of the beast, and they will die for their faith. And so, the vengeance of God upon their killers will be true and just and right, calling for the praise of His people – even as they rejoice that God’s justice has been made known for all to see. My favorite Revelation commentator says it this way:
“Again, while a call to rejoice over the destruction of a whole group seems strange and offensive [non-Christian] at first glance, we must realize that the overriding concern in the book is to defend the justice of God and vindicate the suffering saints. The rejoicing occurs because divine justice is being served and because the oppressors of God’s people are finally receiving what their evil deeds deserve.” (Osborne)
Is this right? Is it perverse to rejoice? No – these unbelievers remain steadfast in their sin – in the midst of judgments – the fallenness of humanity in a broken world under the judgment of God as all creation groans, waiting for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed. Revealed by the judgment of those who oppose God and His people, and revealed by the rejoicing of His people as they celebrate the cause of His true and righteous judgments.
One commentator said it this way: “In other words, God’s justice would be called into question if he did not judge Babylon.” (Thomas Schreiner) And don’t forget, believers defeat Satan and his followers by the blood of the cross and their own blood in which they follow their Savior. Further, the last line of verse 20 could be translated, “God has judged her for the way she judged you.” Babylon has condemned the saints in their courtroom, so they will in turn be condemned in God’s courtroom (Osborne).
Finally, notice the praise comes after the judgment, not before. Why does that matter? Because until the judgment, we share the hope of the gospel, even with those who oppose us. We pray for their salvation. But after the judgment, as they have refused the remedy, we celebrate the justice of God because He is making all things right. We’ll look at the praise of all heaven and God’s people in chapter 19 in a moment. Look at 18:21-24 first for what I call the Results of the Destruction of Babylon. Read.
We saw in chapter 17 that Babylon was made desolate and naked, eaten, and burned up with fire. At the beginning of this chapter, she’s become a dwelling place for demons and unclean spirits, unclean animals and birds. The picture is that of total annihilation and desolation – nothing is fit to live there. A strong angel performs a symbolic act – he takes up a stone like a great millstone – this would not be the small millstones found in kitchens used by women – this would be a large millstone rolled over the grain by a beast of burden like a donkey. He throws it in the sea, saying “So will Babylon, the great city be thrown down” – stop right there.
Notice how everyone keeps referring to her as the great city. And that she was, from a fallen, sinful perspective. It’s like when we refer to Las Vegas as sin city. This Babylon is the great city – great in leading the earth in sin and immorality and rebellion against God. And we remember the dirges from last week:
Verse 10, the kings say, “Woe, Woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city!”
Verse 16, the merchants say, “Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in [luxury]…”
Verses 18,19, the sailors say as they see the smoke of her burning, “What city is like the great city?…Woe, woe, the great city, [in which all became rich.]
Here’s the point. Many today look to the great cities and nations and empires of this world in admiration. What a great city – a place of wealth and luxury and pleasure and sin and immorality. And their destruction will come most assuredly. May not seem like it. Everything seems to go on as it has since the beginning of creation. Where is the promise of His coming? But the day of the Lord will come like a thief – that is, when no one is expecting it, living in, reveling in their sin and rebellion. But not so us – we are to remain sober and alert, to come out of her, and not be lured by her enticements, lest we participate in her destruction.
The strong angel throws the great millstone into the sea, saying “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.” As a result, the following verses tell us five things that will never be seen in her again:
- The sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer. The sound of gaiety and music will be gone, silence will reign.
- And no craftsmen of any craft will be found in you any longer. Admired for her great luxury and abundance, no one will make a living there – all commerce will be gone.
- And the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer – the sound of extravagance and feasting and even eating will not be heard.
- And the light of a lamp will not shine any longer – because there will be no one to light the lamp, no one to see by it.
- And the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer – no merriment, no sounds of that which is most normal for life. All is no more.
Because the merchants who provided all this will be no more – these great men of the earth will be no more; and further, Babylon will be no more because all the nations were deceived by her sorcery/deception. Last and certainly the greatest testament to her iniquities was in her was found the blood of prophets and saints and all who were slain because they were God’s people – all those who were martyred on the earth. That seems so remote to us, but it is coming.
This will all be missing at the destruction of Babylon. But what will be found at her destruction? The rejoicing of all heaven and even God’s people on earth. We read about it in the first six verses of chapter 19 – read that with me.
It is so great to be in chapter 19. Because in this chapter, we will find:
- The Praise of Heaven (in response to the command of 18:20 – to rejoice over the destruction of Babylon (1-6)
- The Marriage Supper of the Lamb (7-10)
- The Coming of Jesus Christ (11-16) – remember, this book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ – and we will see His coming in its glorious fullness.
- The Invitation to the Great Supper of God (17-19)
- And finally, The Battle of Armageddon – such as it is (20-21)
I know you want me to preach the whole chapter today, but we’ll simply look at the commanded praise in those first six verses.
After these things – the destruction of Babylon and the funeral dirges – John heard something like the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven. We are supposed to notice the sharp contrast between the laments of the earth dwellers, and the praise of heaven. Can there be any greater contrast then the laments of unbelievers at the destruction of evil, and the praises of believers at the destruction of evil?
The only other place the great multitude in heaven is mentioned besides this passage is back in chapter 7, where we read, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and people and tongues standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice [there’s the loud voice again] saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.’”
They praise God for His salvation. And they are clothed in white robes, perhaps the same as those in chapter 6 who were given white robes and told to wait until their blood would be avenged. It appears their waiting is over. And they say, “Hallelujah.” Stop right there. As you may know, the word hallelujah is a transliteration of two Hebrew words – Hallel and Yah – for “Praise the Lord” in the OT. Here’s a question for you to think about – where all does the word Hallelujah appear in the NT? Only here in Revelation 19 – I didn’t know that. It appears four times in verses 1-6 – and means, praise the Lord – Hallel Yah.
The great multitude praises Him for His salvation or rescue from their oppressors; glory, which is the display of His attributes; and power. That’s an interesting word – we remember Babylon was called the great. Remember, the kings of the earth said, woe, the great city, the strong city. But a couple verses earlier, we read the Lord God who judges Babylon is strong – same word. She thought herself strong, invincible – but God is a God of salvation to rescue His own, of glory in magnificent display of His attributes, which includes power – different word, but the same idea. God alone is the Almighty.
Verse 2, He is to be praised in the demonstration of His omnipotent power, because His judgments are true and righteous. We’ve seen that over and over – God’s judgment of the wicked is true – that is, morally true and valid, and righteous, that is, legally just and fair. What God pours out on the unrighteous is appropriate, right, just and deserved.
And so, He has rightly judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth – leading the earth to idolatry and immorality. Further, He avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her. Part of God’s true and righteous judgment is giving those who killed His people what they rightly deserved, and thereby, avenged the blood of His own.
Which leads to the second Hallelujah in verse 3, and a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” God is to be praised not only for His acts of judgment, but the duration of His judgment – forever and ever – it’s absolutely final. Never again will she oppress His people. We’ll see that in chapter 20, but as hard as it is to hear, God’s judgment of the unrighteous is eternal. And it is right and to be praised.
Leading to the third hallelujah, this coming from the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures, last time we see them in the book. These angelic beings closest to God fall down in worship and declare His praise, saying, “Amen [which means, so be it] and Hallelujah.”
Did you hear what I just said – those closest to God, to include the four living creatures who cease not day and night to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come,” and the 24 elders who then fall down in worship and cast their crowns before Him, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
And it seems when this righteous destruction of Babylon happens and the great multitude in heaven says Hallelujah, these will pause their eternal praise and together fall down in worship and cry out, Amen and Hallelujah. I don’t know about you, but I am convicted of my feeble and infrequent expressions of praise to the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.
You see, verse 5 says, “And a voice came from the throne [not from God Himself based on what the voice says, but one close to the throne and under God’s authority] saying, ‘Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” We notice the next verse goes back to the great multitude, so likely this command to His bond-servants to praise God is likely directed toward believers on earth. Who is to praise Him – all His bond-servants, from the smallest to the greatest. Meaning, He is deserving of praise from everyone.
Finally, verse 6, “Then I heard something like [three things] the voice of a great multitude [probably the same multitude as in verse 1] like the sound of many waters [meaning many, cascading voices] and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder [again, loud and crashing voices] saying, ‘Hallelujah! [the fourth and final Hallelujah in the entire NT] For the Lord our God, the Almighty reigns.” Ten times the title Almighty appears in the NT – nine in Revelation.
While Babylon, now destroyed, while the red dragon, Satan, while the beast from the sea, the Antichrist, while the beast from the earth, the False Prophet, while the federation of ten kings representing all nations and people opposing God – while they think themselves the captains of their own souls, the masters of their own destiny, reveling in their own idolatry, immorality and arrogant rebellion – there is only one who reigns – the Lord our God, the Almighty. And He and He alone is worthy of praise. Hallelujah.