Come Out of Her My People
Chapter 18 is an exciting chapter showing the destruction of Babylon. We have explored what Babylon represents, and now we see what her destruction will look like. The start of this chapter is a funeral dirge or a lament, like some of the Psalms. The inclusion of "is" shows us that it's already happened or at least the inevitability of the destruction to come. Empires come and they go! The historic Babylonians come and went, the Romans came and went, the Empires since and to come have come and will go. Everything of this world is temporary. This is a very creative way to announce judgement.
The "city" has been destroyed and the picture we see is that of a city that has been depopulated. Unclean demons, birds, and animals occupy the place that should be vibrant and healthy. Why and what has brought this on? Well, it's because of its adulteries (a metaphor for idolatry). Her luxury is mentioned three times (Rev 18:3,7,9). It is intoxicating and seductive. It bewitches. All this language points to Babylon's huge financial, commerce and trading power.
God's people are called to come out of her. This is taken from Jeremiah 51:45 and Isaiah 52:11. A call for us not to be compromised by her luxury, To resist her seductive ways. Not to be compromised by Rome's power, influence, and idolatrous ways.
The sins of the evil empire are piling up. Helping us to think of this situation as another tower of Babel and the competition of mankind with God. A physical structure of man's sin. The arrogance of Rome as it boasts and claims to be an eternal city. In Isaiah 47:7 we see another eternal queen:
You said, ‘I am forever— the eternal queen!’ But you did not consider these things or reflect on what might happen.
Rome glorified itself, boasted, and thought of itself as a queen, but Rome would be punished and would burn. And when it did Kings and Merchants and Sea Captains would all mourn and weep.
Ezekial 27 is drawn from as John documents a list of luxury products. Products that made the traders rich and the rich even richer. Ezekiel 27 is about Tyre as the arrogant centre, again showing as the biblical truth that is an eternal message - for you and me, not just for 1st century Asia-Minor.
The purple and scarlet again shows us the wealth implied. Citrous wood from north Africa, Ivory from Asia and Africa, fine linen from Asia. Some of these materials were used to fashion physical idols that were worshipped, others just show the reach and the network of the Roman Empire. John saves humans as the last commodity mentioned. Does he mean the money made from selling humans or that everyone is under the power and influence of Rome? Both work in the context of Rome and John's pastoral message to us.
The written picture of Babylon being thrown into the sea, never to be found again, and the use of a millstone is graphic. Jesus himself uses a similar judgement in Mark 9:42:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.
Both are probably using Jeremiah 51:63-64. The reference to magic is not hap-hazard either. The pagan worship employed by Jezebel had links to magic and witchcraft (2 Kings 9:22). While the biggest sin is the slaughter of God's holy people (Rev 18:24).
At its simplest application, we can review how we live our lives in the Western World.
Rome's power and wealth and God's people involved
Our Western culture with its power and wealth and our involvement and our response!
Do we want to share in the downfall of Babylon and the judgement of Rome or do we actively go against the injustices found in this world? Where do we draw our line? Is it the enjoyment of cheap products made by multinational corporations who we know don't pay or treat workers fairly. But we do enjoy cheaper clothes, so as long as we don't ask where they're from, or how they're made so cheaply we're OK with it. Out of sight, out of mind!
The message "come out of her, my people" is still relevant to us just as much as it was to the 1st century Christians hearing John's original letter.