We come now to the closing part of our sermon point about the Harlot. So far we learned about her fateful end: She gets devoured by the same people whom she seduces with her worldliness, and she will suffer the same fate as those saints whom she kills and more. God makes sure to punish her with eternal destruction and death. She is ruined.
In Chapter 17 the angel gave us a vision of the harlot riding the beast and he explains every single detail of the symbolisms John saw in the wilderness. Now at the beginning of Chapter 18, John hears another voice from the heaven calling the saints separate from her, and records the lamenting of the wicked over her demise and the rejoicing of the saints for the victory of the Lamb over the dragon. This serves as the outline for our preaching this morning.
The parts of our last sermon point for this morning are: 1) Warning Against Compromise; 2) False vs True Repentance.
Before we begin, let us pray:
O Lord Jesus Christ, you are the bright sun of the world—ever rising, never setting—who with one look gives life: preserving, nourishing, and making joyful all things that are in heaven and on earth. Shine brightly, I pray, upon my heart, that the darkness of sin may be driven away by your inward light, and that I, without stumbling or offending you in any way, may walk in the pure light of day all my life. Grant this, O Lord, for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign for evermore. Amen – Thomas Cranmer
Warning Against Compromise
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast. For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
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; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 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. As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.’ 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.” (verses 1-8)
Let us breakdown again the imagery one by one and get a sense of the details John puts in this vision in Chapter 18. Verse 1 speaks of another angel coming down from heaven and he brings its glory to earth. It appears that it outshines the supposedly splendor of the harlot. This exposes the true nature of the harlot identity and reality which we can read on the succeeding verse 2. In it, the angel alludes to Isaiah 21:9 calling the harlot, “Fallen, Fallen is Babylon“. Again, the symbolism of Babylon comes from the typological nation named Babylon who conquered Judah and brings God’s people to exile. Taken as a picture, she portrays any country who uses its power to bring other nations to enrich her further. She portrays the sinful nature of men for greed, lust, and power. This reveals to us the true nature of the harlot. While she seems attractive, helpful, and even friendly, she is actual an enemy of God and his people. She is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In verse 2, the angel shows John that she is controlled by a demon and a haunted spirit who devours everyone she comes contact with. Verse 3 explains, “For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”
Now, John hears a voice from the heaven which we understand comes from the throne room of God. It means command directly comes from the One who is, who was, and who is to come. Verse 4 exhorts God’s people to come out Babylon and stop compromising with her or else they too will share her fate. Verses 5 -6 declares her judgment, verse 7 explains her sin which is pride, and verse 8 describes her impending doom, “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.” God will share her fate to those who follows her and even those hypocrites who remain at her side to fornicate with her.
We are called to be in the world but not become of it. Simply put, we are to separate ourselves from the sins of this world but never isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. I know Christians in every generation wrestles with this calling as each of our situations varies but the warning against compromise stands. The apostle John wrote in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Johannes Vos wrote in his short essay regarding “The Biblical Doctrine of the Separated Life” that Christians are called to separate themselves from Sin, Occasions of Temptation to Sin, and from the World. We are not antinomians. We do not profess faith in Christ and yet insist on still living the life we are called to leave behind. Also, we are exhorted to remain watchful over our lives and continue in the battle against sin and fight it until death comes. We cannot live worldly and compromised lives. Compromise happens when we allow our fears and insecurities to take over our daily lives. Our identity in Christ is sure. We are his. We belong to him and he belongs to us and yet we often find ourselves longing to go back to where we used to be. We are like pigs going back to the mud and having a feast day with the dirt. We are prone to wonder, prone to leave the God we love.
So Christian, let us remind ourselves that we are living in God’s grace and by the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, we live godly lives. In Christ, we are not our own but belong both body and soul, in life and death, to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
False vs True Repentance
And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.”
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. “The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!” The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”
And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste.
Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” (verses 9-24)
These verses signifies a shift from prose to poetry. It is a Song of Lament and Praise. These songs are indeed written in the Hebraic style of comparison and contrast. In comparison, as songs of poetry therefore as its genre, they both serve to express an emotion and truth. And in contrast, they demonstrate for us the two kind of responses when Babylon fell. The first resembles the sentiment of a false convert while the second affirms godly attitude. This is then a call for wisdom. It is a way to discern oneself. It is to gauge whether we are hypocrites or saints.
The response of the worldly, the wicked, and hypocrites is a lament. The kings, the merchants, and traders mourn, weep, and lament over the demise of their worldly queen. False converts follow the same attitude when it comes to relationship with the world. They long after it. They only suppress their desire over material wealth and pleasure but never even have come close to kill it. The merchant in his lament listed down all the material things they offer and will soon perish, “gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots.” What a long and exhausted list!
Let me list some from our modern time, “shoes, bags, games, deliveries, groceries, plants, cars, bikes, clothes, tv series, gadgets, vacuum cleaner, fish tank, books, whitening soap, sports, big screen tv, laptop, guitar, piano, camera, and more.” Like a shopping list from Lazada and Shopee, or the marketplace in Facebook, these stuff occupies majority of our time and attention, and sometimes we find ourselves longing over these things and wanting them more than anything else. Materialism always finds a home in our sinful hearts. Unlike the hypocrite, we need to kill it and never ever let it find time to take a foot hold in our lives.
As Christians, the proper response to the demise of worldliness is thanksgiving and praise. Yes, we should never rejoice over the misfortune of others but the perspective Scripture offers here is vindication of God’s people over their enemies. Yes, we may all die in the hands of our enemies but as we remain uncompromised, God avenges us and will soon them into his justice. Just and true are ways, O King of the saints! This is our song as victors and this we sing until the end.
ZCRC(Imus), Babylon is Fallen. God judges her and will soon bring to pass his judgments over her. So let us not compromise and rejoice instead of lament. Let us praise God for he alone is wise, good, and just. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.