Laments Over Babylon’s Fall

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LAMENT OF THE KINGS, MERCHANTS & SEA CAPTAINS – “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!’ “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes any more—cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men. “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your riches and splendor have vanished, never to be recovered.’ The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn and cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’ “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! (Revelation 18:9-19)

Who Mourned – The mourners are those who had been bewitched by Babylon’s spiritual fornication, who had shared in her sensual pleasures, and who had gained from her wealth and trade.

Kings of the Earth – They were the kings of the earth, whom she had seduced into idolatry and who had shared in her tyranny.

Merchants and Sea Captains – They were the merchants and sea captains who got rich by selling and transporting her goods.(1)

The imagery here is
that of a prosperous city (or country) that is visited by many merchants and ships, perhaps the center of the world’s commerce. The wealth of this Babylon will enrich many other nations, while providing employment for many people around the earth.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States is quoted as saying “the chief business of the American people is business.” Even today, business and government have become so intertwined that what affects one cannot help but affect the other. So naturally, not only do the merchants and transporters lament the fall of this future Babylon, but also the rulers (kings) of the earth.(2)

Who They Mourned – “Was there ever a city like this great city?” In John’s day, ancient Babylon, a kingdom and city that was but is no more might have been mourned like this in days gone by. But it had been eclipsed by the splendor and might of the Roman Empire. Rome, which from John’s perspective was the city and kingdom that was currently the dominant political and economic power, eventually fell. But it did not fall suddenly or in one day. It fell from decay and over-extension. Yet we often speculate whether there ever was an empire quite like the Roman empire.

What about the kingdom or city to come, the one destined to surpass both Babylon and Rome? Today, as discussed in the previous chapter, a nation such as the United States might very well fit this description. Or, at the end of the age it could be another empire that rises to supplant the United States. As history teaches us, all such powers rise only to fall or lose their prominence, as will this “Babylon.”

How They Mourned – They stand afar off. Even Babylon’s “friends” will distance themselves from her fall. Though they had been partakers with or benefactors of her power and profits, they were not willing share in her plagues.(3) They had gained from her and had been sustained by her. They would not (nothing more to be gained from her), could not (the source of their wealth and power was destroyed with her and could sustain them no longer), or dared not (if such power and influence can fall so suddenly and completely how could they possibly stand?) attempt to rescue her.(4)

Why They Mourned – They had been dazzled by the grandeur and power of this Babylon and now lament its fall.(5) They did not lament that they had shared in her sins (“committed adultery with her and shared her luxury”). But rather they lamented that they had fallen into ruin because of her fall (“because no one buys their cargoes anymore”). The spirit of anti-Christ is a worldly spirit, and the mourners’ sorrow is a mere worldly sorrow. It is not a Godly sorrow leading to repentance. Their lament is not for the judgment of God that has fallen on Babylon, but for the loss of their outward wealth and comfort that they had gotten from Babylon.(6)

This portion of Revelation makes it abundantly clear that this Babylon represents not only political power but also material wealth and luxury. As God’s judgment consumes Babylon, the world’s merchants, rulers, sea captains and sailors will weep and mourn for their lost source of riches and power.(7) They are not feeling sorry for Babylon, but for themselves. God had brought an end to their life of luxury and wealth.(8) Today, with the complex connections that exist between governments, currencies, businesses and economies, as well as the inter-connectedness of computer systems, it will not take long for the collapse of this “Babylonian” system to cause the entire world’s economic and political infrastructure to crumble like a house of cards.(9)

Both luxuries and necessities will be destroyed when God judges this Babylon. Shipping will be destroyed, and the shipping industry brought to ruin. The world had come to depend on this economic and political system to care for them, protect them, and satisfy them. But ultimately it will fail them.(10)

Up Next – Rejoicing in Heaven.

_____________________

References

  1. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2482). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 615). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2482). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  4. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 327). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  5. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 327). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  6. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2482). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  7. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1083). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  8. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 615). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  9. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 615). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  10. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 848). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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