Reflections on Revelation #309

‘Day 309

15 The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, 16 saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls; 17 for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and all who make their living by the sea, stood at a distance, 18 and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’ 19 And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich from her prosperity, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’ 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.” Rev 18:15-20. (NASB)

Babylon was not only wealthy; she was fully self-absorbed in this wealth (18:7). She was willing to do almost anything to preserve her wealth and position. But the statement of Jesus, “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38,) suggests the ironic principle that, if you want to be truly wealthy, you have to give your riches away.

It seems that the one who creates a family fortune finds meaning and purpose in gathering that fortune. But that kind of motivation will not work for later generations. They will inherit more than they can ever use, and unless they have been taught to serve a higher purpose with that wealth, they lose a sense of meaning and purpose. They will focus instead on the pursuit of social status and will be willing to spend enormous sums on self-gratification.

An interesting feature of V20 is that God’s people are commanded to rejoice, they are commanded to be happy. Most of us think that we can only be happy when things are going well. But evidently, happiness is a choice, a choice that God’s people can make even in the hardest of times. Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time – it’s not how your life is arranged; it’s how your head is arranged. It is not what happens to you that matters, but what happens in you.
In vs11-17 the financial system that brought great riches has collapsed. In a matter of days, the world’s economy collapsed. Not little by little, but like dominos falling one nation after another. The world will go broke overnight. The wealthy and the poor will lose it all. Whom will they blame? V16 tells us.

Read 18:21-22.

Economic exploitation and negligence are a major part of Babylon’s pattern of sin. Today over a billion people live on the equivalent of less than a dollar a day. The richest 20% of the world’s people use 83 percent of the resources, the poorest 20% 1.4 percent. 450 million people are malnourished or facing starvation. 250,000 children die every week from malnutrition and easily preventable diseases. 
Revelation 18 reminds us that God does not look the other way in the face of economic injustice. He will bring down every empire in time. When we squander money on things we do not need, will we somehow escape Babylon’s judgment? Jesus parable (Luke 16) of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus at his gate fits in here. Which reward will you have? 

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