Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Revelation 18:9-18 Mystery Babylon as Mammon


KEY TEXT: Revelation 18:9-18 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?" 

KEY THOT: As we meditate on Mystery Babylon, she seems to have evolved from merely a religious harlot into a purveyor of global wealth and promoter of sexual immorality. While it's risky to point to a particular institution or city or country as Mystery Babylon, nevertheless the spirit of Mystery Babylon is pervasive in our generation: it has infiltrated every sphere of human living through the process of globalization. Jesus warns us against it, calling it Mammon: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24, NKJV). Apostle John warns against it, calling it the World: "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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 John 2:15-16, NKJV). Mystery Babylon may even have a religious veneer that promises prosperity to all its adherents and devotees.

It is quite clear as we read more about Mystery Babylon, that she is clearly a seductive Lady dressed to entice all who loves the world with her offerings of sex (wine), power (kings) and money (merchants): "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" (v.3). While it is tempting to point away from ourselves to identify a particular global religious institution or movement or city or country as Mystery Babylon, perhaps we should be careful that we are not already part of the Mystery Babylon because of our love for the world and its allurements, viz., sex, power and money.

Sadly, the Church is not entirely free from the spirit of Mystery Babylon. The spirit of Mystery Babylon is marked by the desire for all kinds of goods: "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" (Revelation 18:12-13). This spirit of Babylon will trade anything for money, even human lives (human-trafficking). Mystery Babylon is driven by greed and lusts.

God will judge Mystery Babylon not only in the world but also in the church. It will happen suddenly without warning: "Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come." (v.10). It may begin with the physical destruction of financial centres like New York City, where the major financial institutions, business corporations and media are congregated. But God's judgment will be extended to all who are looking to Mystery Babylon for its wealth and pleasures. The effect on the global economy will be devastating. We do not yet know what will trigger off the next global economic meltdown, but it will be likely be caused by a natural disaster, e.g. a tsunami or an earthquake: "For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste" (Revelation 18:17).

As believers, our response should be to get out of the greed-based system represented by Mystery Babylon before we get dragged down with it: "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" (Revelation 18:4). 

Abba-Father, deliver us from the love of this world and its lusts and pride. Amen.

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